At a recent RICS conference the issue of diversity both in terms of gender, race and age within the profession was a key topic up for discussion. It is clear that the RICS themselves are concerned with the current ability to attract a diverse range of people into the profession and as such have identified the existing characteristics of senior to mid-level experienced professionals as “pale, male and stale”.
There is a concerted effort being made to make the profession more attractive to a diverse range of potential professionals at an earlier age, so as to futureproof against the “old boys club” mentality that has dominated the profession in recent decades (although post 2008 there has been a certain level of change).
I do agree with the efforts the RICS are making to bring change to the property and land professionals makeup; the question that is often asked is “what is a Chartered Surveyor?”. At a younger age people are aware of what doctors do, what solicitors do or what accountants do but the clarity is simply not there for Chartered Surveyors, which is probably not helped by the range of different specialisms within the sector.
When I hire employees into my practice I am greatly encouraged by the diversity found within the town planning sector; I see no issue going forward with attracting a diverse range of professionals into town planning and this is probably because people know what it is and what they would be getting into if they go down that career path.
The case is different when we hire for Chartered Surveying positions where further to there being a smaller pool of talent, the diversity of that talent is extremely limited. This seems to be an issue that is relevant both to graduate jobs and jobs further up the ladder, therefore providing an indication that there is no real change currently taking place within the market. Concerted efforts are being made to change the approach to the senior professional diversity levels although quite rightly such positions can only be taken on merit. It was greatly important to the RICS that our previous chairman Louise Brooke-Smith stepped in as the first female chairperson of the profession and I hope that acts a catalyst towards more diversity in senior positions throughout the profession.
When I look around the room at senior conferences I do still see “pale, male and stale” as the running theme and as someone who has broken some barriers in terms of reaching the most senior level at a relatively young age, I hope those of us who have demonstrated that change can happen continue to do so and encourage it to continue.
My practice’s mantra is very much a case of “if you are good enough you will go far” and I hope such approaches are now drip feeding throughout the profession.
In the meantime I am greatly encouraged that issue has come to the forefront and that steps have been taken to encourage diversity.
MRICS BSc (Hons) RICS Accredited Expert Witness
NextPhase Development Ltd.