Claire Solon’s address to members at the Society’s Annual Dinner focused on the changes needed to develop and improve the sector.
This is a highly significant time for our industry and a time of great uncertainty. The external economic and political environment has created unknown impacts from Brexit and the election of President Trump. We can turn adversity and uncertainty into potential opportunity, but we need the resources and capacity to meet these challenges. I believe there are three key ways we can do this. Firstly, we need to attract new entrants, secondly to diversify our teams, and finally we need to use the skills and expertise available across all the sectors of our industry.
We need to support young members and attract new entrants into the profession. We have been through a period where property was considered a risky career and as a result are experiencing a shortage of graduates. We need to get the message out about the range of employment opportunities available. The SCSI is also very conscious about offering support to younger members. With that in mind we have recently launched the Mentoring Programme. This is designed to offer assistance to younger members who might want to get career advice, and to more experienced members by offering peer- to-peer support. I am particularly pleased to have been part of the roll-out of this Programme, as it is something I have benefitted from over the course of my career. I would encourage members to offer their time and become a mentor so others can benefit from their experience.
We need to encourage diversity, and not just in terms of gender. The question I’ve been asked most often in interviews is not my thoughts on the commercial market, or tender price index predictions – it is: “What is it like being a woman in a man’s world?”. I thought that question would have been left in history and it has been a shock to see how big a deal this still seems to be. The question is why?
One reason was highlighted in the SCSI salary survey conducted last year. This showed a 13% gap between what women and men are paid for doing the same job. We are not going to attract and retain female workers if we do not promote them and provide the same pay and opportunities as are available to their male counterparts.
By encouraging and supporting a more diverse workforce, we reap the benefits of a larger pool of personnel, and reduce the risks of groupthink, which is a significant risk within our industry.
There is a need for much greater collaboration with all sectors of our profession. We tend to work in our own silos as an industry, but the same factors affect us all. Successful schemes are based on a multidisciplinary and collaborative approach. Good design, strong project management and cost control all help to deliver a project that fits the needs of the particular market.
The next time we are sitting around a table, let’s not concentrate just on our own individual area. Let’s think about what the drivers are for the others around that table, and try to think holistically to solve the problems. By working together we become more than the sum of our parts.