Associate building surveyor at DM Hall, Carla Walker, takes pleasure from surprising those who still think surveying is a ‘man’s job’.
After leaving school I studied Bioscience at The Robert Gordon University. It wasn’t for me. However, after buying my first flat I became interested in property, and as a result, a degree in building surveying followed. Since then I have never looked back.
I have worked for FG Burnett, Shepherd, and Aberdeenshire Council before joining DM Hall. Through my experience I have built up a good understanding of the commercial property market in the North East. 90% of our work is commercial, but we still carry out the occasional residential building survey to report on defects, for example. My geographical area covers Aberdeenshire, Moray, Inverness shire and the Western Isles – so an enormous area.
Highlight the biggest projects you have been involved in
The interesting aspect of building surveying is that there are so many areas in which one can specialise. Working in both the private and public sectors I have gained a wide experience of the different roles a building surveyor can undertake. From being involved in the refurbishment of a Grade a Listed building at Aden Country Park, in Aberdeenshire to demolition works. I have also been involved in the specification and building of tennis court and MUGA facilities and also creating disabled changing facilities in schools. So there are so many avenues building surveying covers out with the day to day roles involving dilapidations, condition surveys and insurance work.
Where would you like to be in future?
I want to work my way up to partner level and to help build DM Hall’s presence in the north east as best I can. I’m based in Aberdeen, and I’m looking to stay here for the foreseeable future.
The firm has no formal quotas or policies on advancement for women, but I’ve seen no glass ceiling while I’ve been here. I think that if I get my head down and work hard I have the same chance as everyone else.
What are your thoughts on your sector in terms of the number of females working in general and in higher positions?
There are not many women in the surveying profession. My firm has only two women in senior positions, and I think that is reflective, or maybe a little better, than the industry as a whole. Our professional body, the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) is a good example of the disparity, with currently 13% of its membership being women.
RICS elected its first female president in 2014. The second was elected in 2016, which is a step in the right direction. There are more women than ever applying for jobs in surveying, or studying surveying at university, and the RICS is actively promoting surveying as a profession in schools and through social media to influence career choices.
Attitudes are definitely changing, though. At a recent surveying job at a church, I was met by one of the lady church elders, who had been expecting a male surveyor, because she had assumed it was a “man’s job”. I think I gave her a pleasant surprise.
Could more be done to encourage women into construction?
In my office in Aberdeen, I think the ratio of women to men is around fifty/fifty, at least in the commercial department. I think, at least on the employer side, enough is being done. DM Hall is very flexible, when it comes to working around childcare and making it easy for women to balance careers and children. I’m hesitant about the idea of quotas and I think more can be done to get young women into universities and onto courses like Building Surveying, into offices as professional trainees and through onto the Assessment of Professional Competence (APC).
What is the situation at DM Hall as a whole?
Our most recent intake of professional trainees had five women out of 15 trainees, so 1/3 female/ male ratio which is better than previously, but still a way away from parity. DM Hall has no set quotas and the same interview process, regardless of gender. We hire the best fit for the job.
We need more women to populate the pool of potential candidates. They are good enough not just to succeed, but to excel. For instance, 2016’s RICS Young Building Surveyor of the Year was a woman. I’d advise any young woman looking at her university options to take a look at surveying. It’s a brilliant career.
Catch up with the rest of Scottish Construction Now’s International Women’s Day feature here.