Property industry seen as sexist

Ryan Bembridge

October 25, 2016

women handshake

The property industry is viewed as sexist and girls think being female will hold them back in their careers, the RICS and YouGov Diversity Survey 2016 has revealed.

Young woman aged between 13 and 22 were asked why they wouldn’t want to work in property, building and construction and nearly a third (29%) chose the option ‘I think it can be a sexist industry (i.e. male-focused)’.

One in 10 (9%) young men said the same, while 11% of women also chose ‘This career is better suited to the opposite gender’.

Two in five (41%) young women expect gender discrimination to hold them back in their careers, compared to 4% of young men.

Sean Tompkins, RICS chief executive, said: “This survey reveals that the construction and property industries are still suffering from a reputational image crisis.

“We need to do more to encourage young women into these key sectors and smash the clear perception of a glass ceiling. Quite frankly, we need more radical action.

“This country is suffering from a crippling skills shortage in these sectors. We need to encourage young people to enter the sector, and we need to show them that we are as diverse as the clients we work with.”

The property industry was seen as the least diverse sector by a third (32%) of young people, ahead of law (30%) and IT (25%).

If a company is not gender diverse one in five (21%) women said they definitely won’t work there or will barely consider doing so.

Young women valued having female leaders, as four in 10 (43%) reckoned having a female Prime Minister or President encourages gender diversity at work.

But more women (73%) put the onus on the attitudes and behavior of CEOs and senior leaders in encouraging equal numbers of men and women.

Tompkins said he has listened to the feedback and will take action.

He added: “From now on, as the CEO of this global organisation, I pledge that both RICS and I will lead the way on diverse panels and I will question any panel I am invited on to that is male-only. We need to showcase the expertise of women in our industry.

“I urge other industry leaders to stand up and follow suit. That’s why I’m issuing the CEO challenge, calling on fellow business leaders to take the pledge and by doing so enhance diversity in the built environment across the UK.”

RICS has created a ‘RICS Diversity Hub’, an online portal giving members and external bodies advice on encouraging diversity and inclusion at work.

Amanda Clack, RICS president and head of infrastructure (advisory) at EY for the UK & Ireland, said there is a need for diversity at the top.

She added: “As now the president of RICS, and someone who happens to be female, I reflect back on when I first entered the profession, there were no strong female role models.

“Yet, according to our survey, a quarter of young women believe they will do better under the leadership of a female CEO and they want to see visible female role models.

“Strong female roles models will help to attract greater diversity into the industry, because the more we celebrate individual success, the more surmountable barriers become.

“With a female Prime Minister in the UK and a woman in the running for the US Presidency, we are seeing great female role models at the very highest level – with the potential impact that can have on workplace diversity apparent.”

Adelle Rhule-Martin, a 20-year-old surveying apprentice from Bilfinger GVA, reckoned the growing number of powerful female role models will shift attitudes in the coming years.

She said: “Being able to see women like Theresa May or Hilary Clinton actively pursuing careers, where men once dominated makes you think – if they managed to achieve that, then I can maybe achieve that and more!

“But business leaders must also play their part, and that needs to come from the top. The CEO sets the vision for the company.

“The CEO is a driver and the business is their vehicle. The drive to increase diversity and stand up for women in any industry, has to flow from the top down to ensure that all levels support and implement diversity best practice.”

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