High heels and hard hats

Posted on: January 12, 2018

In recent months I’ve interviewed the CEO of Aston Martin and the Director of Sony Computer Games to find out what they are doing to champion women in their male-dominated sectors.

I’m now putting the spotlight on the construction sector and had the pleasure of interviewing Gillian Charlesworth, Director of Regulatory and Corporate Affairs at RICS, the professional body for surveyors around the world.

She is one of only 2 women on the global senior management team and she’s made it a personal priority to help improve diversity in her sector.

Currently only 13% of surveyors in the UK are women – so there’s a lot of ground to cover!

I was also fascinated to learn that property and land makes up a whopping 70% of global wealth and buildings are responsible for 40% of carbon emissions, so it’s hugely influential.

I asked Gillian what she’s doing to empower women in the sector?

“Here are just 4 examples from the many actions we are taking at RICS: 

Firstly, we’ve made it a priority to get more women out there as speakers, panellists and experts – supporting and encouraging them to put themselves forward.  To demonstrate our commitment to this our CEO Sean Tompkins has made it a policy that he will not appear on all male panels.

Secondly, we have created forums for women to come together and honestly share their experiences at work in a supportive atmosphere.  I find women are very practical and want to focus on solutions to the challenges they face. 

We make a point of including men in these events so that we’re enabling constructive conversations between the women and men.  For example, it needs to be OK for men to have childcare responsibilities too – they are often penalised harder than women for this.

Thirdly, we’ve introduced an Inclusive Employer Quality Mark for the sector, to which 100 firms have already signed up.

And finally, we’re sponsoring the at the Women of the Future Awards a category for real estate, construction and infrastructure – awards which are dedicated to recognising successful young women in Britain. I’m inspired by the candidates and the leadership qualities I see in them: they are collaborative, share credit, know how to positively influence clients and to lead by example.  They are great examples of the type of leadership we need to see throughout the sector. 

We’re planning to hold sessions between the winners and their CEOs so they can candidly describe their experiences of working in the sector – this will really help the CEOs to see the value of diversity and the importance of  making this a priority from the top.”

Coming back to the bigger picture, I asked how we’d all benefit from more diversity in the sector:

Gillian says: “The construction industry can either be part of the problems of sustainability or part of the solution.  More diversity brings about better leadership, less conflict, better buildings and ultimately a healthier environment.”

I’m impressed by Gillian’s vision and her commitment to supporting women and diversity.

Thanks for a great interview and keep up the good work!