How higher education can encourage and support more women into the built environment

Posted on: 9 January, 2024

In the first article of our Be Part of the Change campaign, Charlotte Thackeray explores UCEM’s work to improve representation among women.


By Charlotte Thackeray, Outreach and Inclusion Lead at UCEM

In July 2023, the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) produced its first Women in Surveying insight report. This report explores the makeup of RICS membership from a binary gender perspective and analyses the results of its 2022 survey of women in the profession.

It’s widely known that women across the built environment consistently face recurring challenges throughout their careers, including bias, discrimination and inequity in opportunities. The statistics bear this out too – we know that based on surveyor data from February 2022, women represented only 18% of RICS’  then 139,000 international professionals across 23 pathways; (with land and resources having the greatest representation of women at 36%, compared to minerals and waste at 6%). The same survey also found that 63% felt women either had to work harder to prove themselves to achieve recognition in their workplace or that there is no equal recognition.

The results from RICS aren’t the only statistics that draw this conclusion. In the construction industry, just 14% of professionals are female, and according to CIOB, just 2% of these professionals are working on-site. CIOB also estimate that, at the current rate, it will take almost two centuries to achieve gender equality in the construction industry.

However, it shouldn’t just be employers and governing bodies addressing the female to male gaps in the sector. It’s the responsibility of educational institutions to make an impact, too.

How UCEM is supporting female students and encouraging more women to consider the built environment

UCEM’s core purpose is: “to provide truly accessible, relevant and cost-effective education, which enhances careers, increases professionalism and contributes to a sustainable built environment.” This purpose drives UCEM’s commitment to equality of opportunity and delivering programmes that are accessible to all students, regardless of age, location, or protected characteristics, as well as ensuring its education model is flexible enough that it enables students to have transformative learning experiences.

Learn more: Pursuing a career in a male-dominated industry – a Q&A with UCEM Programme Leader Priti Lodhia

Our drive to contribute to a sustainable built environment is synonymous with a diverse and inclusive industry, and it promotes inclusion and diversity in all aspects of its offering, continuing to break down barriers to engagement and ensuring successful outcomes. A primary focus of this work is the policy of Widening Participation.

Our current outreach activities see us collaborating with and working within schools and further education colleges across the UK to raise awareness of the built environment, but particularly in institutions where there are a higher proportion of girls.

Our Student Ambassadors for Equality, Diversity and Inclusion are launching a new Be Part of the Change podcast, a student-owned series that will interview staff, students, alumni and colleagues from across the built environment. In the first episode, they discuss how they have found working as three women in the sector.

Learn more: Be Part of the Change podcast episode 1 – women in the built environment

In addition, our Silvercloud mental health platform, academic skills support and Financial Support Fund are available for all students to provide support throughout the academic year.

From September 2024, our new Widening Participation initiatives will look to challenge EDI practices in the sector by:

  • Providing more representation for female students
  • Creating distinct networking groups
  • Arranging spaces to study
  • Offering specific funding for female students with caring responsibilities

By providing opportunities for female mentoring, taking part in micro-placements and developing female student professional development, our students will be supported and prepared for the next stages of their career. This in turn will empower them in their places of work, and allow them to act as a positive influence on the wider built environment.

Visit the Be Part of the Change site >

In the coming weeks, we will be speaking to students, academic staff and industry professionals to hear their stories, share their successes and find out what our sector needs to do to improve representation among women.

Visit the Be Part of the Change site to keep up with the latest features: Be Part of the Change