This International Womens’ Day, we thought it would be the perfect moment to highlight the perspective of women in surveying. The theme this year is ‘Break the Bias’ – the International Women’s Day website states: ‘whether deliberate or unconscious, bias makes it difficult for women to move ahead. Knowing that bias exists isn’t enough, action is needed to level the playing field.’
It’s especially important to do this in male dominated field such as surveying. According to the RICS website: ‘Currently only 13% of chartered surveyors and 28% of trainees are women and across the whole of the construction sector, employing over 2.5 million people, women comprise just 11%.’
It’s something I’m passionate about in my personal life, but when we first considered writing this article, I didn’t think I’d have much to say. Honestly, the experience of being a woman in surveying? From what I’ve seen, it’s not too different from being a man in surveying! Furthermore, I had doubts about what I could add to the conversation – I can’t possibly speak for all women in surveying or say anything terribly original about the subject.
However, after some reflection, I realised two things:
That the experience I’ve had is testament to my company, GEOSIGHT, being so welcoming and inclusive. I’m not treated any differently to my male colleagues so my experience of being a woman in surveying hasn’t stood out as being different, but I recognise that this isn’t the case for every woman everywhere.
It’s important to raise our voices and increase the visibility of female role models in surveying, as it might make the difference that encourages more women into the field. Bias can hide in unconscious form everywhere – if women and girls aren’t seeing themselves represented in the field of surveying and geomatics, then they’ll be less likely to choose this field for their career, less likely to choose to study STEM subjects, missing out on potentially huge opportunities for rewarding careers.
In my experience, land, boundary and marine surveying can be very rewarding and varied. It’s a real mixture of site work and desk-based work, which means there’s always plenty of variety to keep things interesting– one day you could be reviewing legal documents and old maps, the next you could be on a ship in Spain! There’s plenty of opportunities to travel, to exercise your problem-solving skills, and to use your creativity, for example when presenting data to clients in clear and visually appealing ways. It’s a career which exercises different bits of your brain. It’s also a really accessible career for women to get into. Women are less likely to pursue a STEM-related degree, representing only 26% of STEM graduates. While a geomatics-related degree is definitely an asset in land surveying, there are clearly defined pathways for non-geomatics graduates to become a member of a chartered institution and advance in their careers.
So, in conclusion, if you’re a woman looking to get into the field of surveying, whether land survey or the world of hydrography, I would say go for it! And if you’re an employer considering whether to hire a woman, I would encourage you to consider that our perspectives and strengths can make a great asset to your team.