SHW Celebrates Greater Diversity on International Women's Day
Published: 16 Mar 2020
International Women’s Day on 8 March is the perfect opportunity to showcase the work of four of our female surveyors and our expert IT Technical Administrator. The property industry may have been slow to embrace diversity, but we are seeing growing evidence that times are changing.
As Gemma Quinn, Emma Ormiston, Lizzie Oliver, Flaminia Martin and Carlie Edgerton explain, there is much to recommend in the busy and varied workload of a multi-disciplinary surveying practice. Nonetheless the benefits of a career in property and IT need to be promoted more widely, especially at grassroots level in schools, to encourage the next generation of female surveyors and technology specialists.
Tell us a bit about your role
I am a valuation surveyor based in the London office of SHW. My role is quite varied as I value commercial and residential properties for many different purposes including accounting, probate, matrimonial and succession. I also act on behalf of landlords and tenants in commercial rent review and lease renewal negotiations and in residential leasehold enfranchisement negotiations.
Geographically, my job takes me all over, from prime central London to the Home Counties and beyond. I thoroughly enjoy the fact that my job is so varied. I inspect lots of different types of properties from luxurious flats to industrial units, family homes to corner shops.
I am a partner of SHW and specialise in office agency based in Brighton. I act for a variety of clients from private individuals to pension funds.
I am a graduate surveyor in the professional department, primarily working in the business rates, lease advisory and valuation sectors. I’m aiming to sit my APC in the autumn to become a chartered surveyor.
I work in the IT Team at SHW which involves supporting the business with their technology needs. This ranges from troubleshooting issues, delivering training to my colleagues and working on ways to improve productivity through our business applications.
I am a Registered Valuer and spend my time advising clients on the value of their building – this can be for their own information, their pension fund or a bank loan. I specialise in working with D1 properties which are predominantly medical, educational or community buildings. This means I spend my time inspecting properties and carrying out research from the office.
What attracted you to the property industry and Flaminia you to Information Technology?
Having completed my primary BA degree in European Business with German, after some time in the industry, I retrained by studying part time to complete a BSc in Property Studies (an RICS-affiliated course) to become a chartered surveyor.
I began as a valuation intern, working (for very little money!) in a multi-disciplinary surveying practice. Initially, it was a case of ‘sink or swim’, getting to grips with building terminology, identifying defects and determining values. As an intern, I worked hard to improve my report-writing skills and ability to communicate what I saw during a property inspection to the bank manager/property owner.
Over time, my intuition improved regarding values and matters that can potentially affect value. I grew more confident in giving advice to clients.
I was attracted to surveying as I knew it was a job where you would not be tied to your desk. There is an emphasis on creating strong relationships with clients and other surveyors; it is very much a people business. I also liked the fact there was a clear career path in terms of getting qualified and the skills you gain are very transferable.
Unfortunately, I did not consider surveying until after I had completed my undergraduate degree and it was only due to family members that I knew about property as a career.
I applied to university to do Property Finance & Investment at Nottingham Trent. Applying to university was quite a struggle as no-one at sixth form knew about the property industry or could give me any advice (especially for my UCAS application) and, because I went to an all-girls school, it was pretty much unheard of. Once I was at university, I was given lots of help and advice with employment, which led me to gain a graduate job with SHW.
It’s an exciting industry to work in considering the growth of the sector through constant developments in technology. It’s rewarding to find ways to make my colleagues lives easier by improving the tools they use to carry out their work both at their desk and on the road. I like being female in IT because it’s unexpected and a stereotype that I’m involved in breaking down.
I love buildings! Architecture, interior design, construction, place making…I have been interested in it all! I studied a degree in Town Planning before I realised that this wasn’t quite the right area of property for me. The industry is so large and varied I spoke to family friends, friends of friends and colleagues of friends to understand the different types of surveying and then went looking for work experience. I started working in Business Development for a small property firm whilst studying for a Masters in Real Estate before becoming a General Practice Graduate Surveyor. I worked as a portfolio manager and became a jack-of-all-trades!
Do you think the industry has changed since you started?
Not necessarily. Clients still want comprehensive advice in an efficient manner. That hasn’t changed! Some would say the world of surveying has become more stressful because of the timeframes within which we work. Once you can manage your workload and provide solid advice to your clients, you are doing a good job!
I have often been the only female surveyor in a male-dominated team but that is changing for the better. It is incredibly important to have balance in any office be it gender, pay, experience, age etc. Surveying - and especially valuation surveying - is a wonderful career that can be challenging but interesting.
The industry is modernising all the time which is great. One of the key things is there are now more women within the profession, both at SHW and amongst our clients. We are noticing more firms, including SHW, embracing agile and flexible working.
However, more needs to be done to educate school students about the possibility of a career in property and the routes available to them. Through the RICS Matrics (an organisation that supports young people in surveying) I have visited schools to promote the profession at career fairs and assemblies.
Along with other colleagues from SHW, I took part in the ‘Be the Change’ programme – an organisations that helps school children reach their full potential and bridge the gap from school to employment. As part of this we had a group of school children come to work with us for the day and opened their eyes to world of surveying!
It is through initiatives like this that we will attract more people to the profession and are more likely to create a diverse work force.
I think people have become more aware of the imbalance and are actively doing more to solve it, but I think gender imbalance really starts at the grassroots level in schools. Not enough young people know about property or what a surveyor does, let alone that there is an entire industry out there that needs more women in it!
I was the only woman on my course at university (out of about 20 people) and it was obvious when we attended lectures with the wider combined property courses that women were outnumbered. Once we get women onto property courses, we can start to solve the problem within the working industry.
The IT sector is always changing and the tools that businesses can use are becoming even more powerful. Since I started, I’ve noticed our own business becoming far more in tune with technological advancements.
Our own IT team has flipped from being male dominated to female dominated which is fantastic. Our IT Partner and head of team is female, which really highlights the diversity of SHW.
When I first started working, it was still a very male dominated industry and it was difficult being:
a) young and
There were many, many times where I would be the only woman in the room which meant I felt the pressure to know the answer to every question and not shy away from being assertive. This has changed fairly rapidly in the last 5 years and the ratio is becoming a lot more even at a lot of events and meetings. I have met so many more young female graduates and apprentices its brilliant to know that a variety of talent is now being attracted to the industry.
What is one piece of advice that you would give to your younger self starting their first day at work?
Reach for the stars!
The route to getting qualified and climbing the ladder within a firm seems very daunting at first, but so long as you are prepared to work hard, ask plenty of questions and generally get involved as much as possible, you will progress quickly.
Everyone has been in your shoes once upon a time and you aren’t expected to know everything in the first week. Your first day will probably be spent doing a health and safety questionnaire anyway!
Try turning it off and on again.
Sorry serious answer: Don’t avoid nerve provoking situations, these are the moments that you will learn the most.
Ask questions and take notes! You are not expected to know everything on your first day but people run out of patience if you keep asking the same questions over and over. Also put your hand up and volunteer for things which are out of your comfort zone, all experience is good experience!
What does the future hold for you?
I would like to progress my career as I have done since the start. Every day is different in this job and I hope that continues for the future.
I look forward to seeing what new trends come through the profession and helping SHW adapt to them to ensure we continue to provide the best service to our clients and attract and retain the best surveyors going forward.
Once I’ve qualified, I want to work my way to the top and bring as many women with me as possible. Then I can retire to Hawaii.
Cram as much knowledge as possible (both IT and property) into my brain so I can continue to support the business growth. I’m excited to see how technological advancements will complement our industry!
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