This week, Marion sat down with Rebecca Jenkins and Michaela Perry-Kay for a Women in Surveying chat to discuss what it is like, to work in the surveying industry from a female perspective.
Rebecca Jenkins is a Chartered Building Surveyor based in Sussex. Sussex Surveyors is based in Hove with offices in Haywards Heath, Eastbourne and soon, Chichester. She spends most of her time working on party wall matters, writing specifications of works and inspecting defects in residential homes. She enjoys the personal interactions that take place as part of her work and believes that protecting our existing housing stock is important from both a sustainable and economical perspective.
Michaela Perry-Kay is a Chartered Building Surveyor with only 22 years left till retirement. She has Commercial Property sector experience, and in recent years expanded into the residential market. She’s an SME warrior once having owned an RICS regulated firm. She craves for diversity in a profession that in 25 years thus far has failed to ‘Raise the Ratio’.
Being a Female Surveyor
Both Rebecca and Michaela agree that surveying is still a male-dominated industry. As Rebecca explains, women need to take up space and not be apologetic for it.
“I remember one occasion when I was on-site with a colleague of mine,” Rebecca says, “and I was trying to speak to the contractor who was there. When trying to say something and he would not even acknowledge the fact that I’ve spoken. I thought I needed to make myself bigger.”
“It was around my mid-30s that I started to acquire a sense of self,” Michaela continues. “My own personal life experiences started to encourage those boundaries, and then you start to look at your work life. There’s no better way of letting people form their opinion than by showing them what you can do. If they don’t want to hear and they don’t want to listen, they’re not going to learn. But when they see what you can do, then you become accepted.”
“I’ve always been naturally an intuitive person,” she says, “but maybe I’ve not had the confidence to own that intuition and run with it. I felt bound by a number of shackles and my effort to try and make myself heard did come out as aggressive at times. But now I can say I know how to communicate. I have confidence in what I’ve got to say, and I believe that my voice is just as valid as anybody else’s here.”
Turning Communication Skills into a Superpower
Michaela and Rebecca continue talking about their work experiences, highlighting that women should be brave about setting up their own businesses.
“Being a woman, it’s a facet of being able to talk and communicate what you do,” Michaela explains. “It’s the ability to defuse a situation or bring it back down or approach it in a way that people see you’re not a threat. They see a nice individual that’s able to talk.”
“I do think that a particular skill that we have as women is to defuse those situations before they escalate into a confrontation,” Rebecca agrees.
“I’m an advocate for any woman who wants to set up their own business,” Michaela continues. “Being your own business, whether you’ve got kids or not, it’s quite an undertaking. But any woman within our profession whom I get in contact with, I will empower and support as much as I can.”
Party Walls Explained from a Female Perspective
Rebecca, who is an expert on party walls, goes more deeply into explaining the issues that could come up.
“This is quite a relational business,” Rebecca explains. “I find that a large amount of my time that I spend on party walls matters has nothing to do with surveying or even the property itself. It’s about managing those relationships, and if you can get those lines of communication open and operating effectively, I find that about 70% of my job is done.”
“They’ve often started the work without realising that they need to get a party wall,” she continues. “Well, they’re not surveyors, they’re just somebody who employed an architect. They bought a house and thought it would be nice to convert the loft. Nobody at any point has mentioned this obligation to them. Why should they know? If you’re not told something, where do you go to find that information reliably?”
“I love due diligence,” Michaela says. “I always start off by asking myself, is this person giving me their opinion, or is this based on fact? Where has this come from? That’s where I start, because I’ve been led down the road so many times based on people’s opinions, and then you end up having to back it up,” she concludes.
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