Amanda Clack is RICS [The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors] President Elect, having qualified as a quantity surveyor and in project management, Amanda is a Fellow of RICS. She joined EY as a Partner in August 2015 as the Head of Infrastructure (Advisory). Prior to this she was a Partner at PwC, where she led on consulting across the South East of England, as well property, real estate and construction for consulting.
“…People often come at tackling diversity from the perspective of it is an issue to be addressed. I come at it from the other way round, that diversity has to be embedded as part of your business strategy because you simply cannot afford to not have a diverse workforce today and for the future…”
Fascinated by buildings and construction
I guess I have always been fascinated by buildings and construction. I love photography – but many of my photos tend to be of buildings!
In reality, my fascination probably started in early childhood initially with Lego, and then the M25 motorway was being constructed at a time when I was taking my options and I was fascinated in the big build of infrastructure construction. Most girls at my school went straight on to university, but I thought I wanted to do a day-release degree in quantity surveying whilst working in practice, which is what I ended up doing – and I loved it right from the start. The balance of working four days a week and studying really suited me.
I quickly wanted to run things, effect changes and make a difference – so project management seemed like the natural next step.
So far I have even managed to design and build two properties – so that really is taking my career home!
Becoming President of RICS – it means everything
Some of the guys in the office were off to an RICS meeting one evening and invited me along. Before I knew it I was treasurer of the Essex Quantity Surveying Committee … I’ve never looked back since. I got involved as I loved my career and wanted to make a difference to the profession. Since then, I have been engaged with various boards, committees and the Governing Council, as well as leading some of the major reviews of the profession – always with a view to wanting to help shape the profession for the future.
To be honest becoming President Elect, and ultimately the global President in 2016, is unbelievable. It means everything to me.
As I was receiving my Diploma Certificate at RICS in 1992 it was my mother who said to me, “One day your name could be up there,” as she pointed of the list of esteemed Presidents. I never really believed it would happen or I ever would be in a position to lead the profession I was so proud to have just joined. But, I guess they say “never say never”!
The importance of diverse talent
The property and construction profession is in desperate need to attract a broader base of entrants – or quite simply by 2019 Britain stops building, as currently around 400,000 people join and leave the industry every year.
Clearly the cyclical nature of the industry doesn’t help in the recruitment and retention of talent. Professions like RICS are doing as much as they can to help in this regard.
We are working with schools through initiatives such as Class of Your Own and 50:50, which bring headteachers and industry together to look at helping schools understand more about careers in the built environment. We have metrics which focus on helping younger members through networking and career development. As well sponsoring awards for the industry such as Women of the Future and Young Surveyor of the Year. Initiatives like Property Needs You and #SurveyingtheFuture all try to help on this too.
But it’s the areas of diversity and inclusion where we are currently hoping to also make a real difference, working collaboratively with organisations like Freehold.
Redressing the gender balance
Diversity and inclusivity are key areas RICS is looking to address. We have an aging workforce and have to do something to redress the balance for the reasons I have stated earlier. As an industry we have improving statistics on gender – for example 3% of the profession were female 20 years ago, 10 years ago it was 6% and today its 13% globally (or 15% in the UK).
Some areas of the profession are doing better than others, so rural has 31% female membership but quantity surveying is just 11%. We need more women in the profession, but we also need greater diversity and need to get data to help us start to tackle what needs to be done.
What leader in business can afford to ignore talent?
Our #RICSFutures report – Our Changing World: Let’s Be Ready – identified a call to action on the war for talent in the profession and our industry. So, to help this, RICS launched the Quality Mark for Employers in June 2015, which will start to consider the wider aspects of diversity in the profession. This focuses on six key principles to be assessed, namely:
- Leadership and vision;
- Staff development;
- Staff retention;
- Staff engagement; and
- Continuous improvement.
A diverse approach starts at the top, and for many of our major firms these are still predominantly male – but what leader in business can afford to ignore talent in the workplace and that comes from embracing the diversity and inclusion agenda head on?
Diversity is a strategy and a source of competitive advantage in the industry, not an issue
People often come at tackling diversity from the perspective of it is an issue to be addressed. I come at it from the other way round, that diversity has to be embedded as part of your business strategy because you simply cannot afford to not have a diverse workforce today and for the future.
I work closely with the National Equality Standard (NES) run from within EY. Here we are working with business leaders and organisations to help them understand and improve their business perspectives by having a better understanding of diversity in their organisations.
For the property industry, there is a great EY Report published with the Property Council of Australia entitled The next big deal is on. Property Industry where are you on gender diversity?. It’s not a great read for the industry speaking of the fact we are at a critical juncture, but does highlight the fact that gender diversity in the workforce absolutely makes compelling business sense!
Personally I love this report – it talks about changing coming from the top through leadership and also how gender diversity on boards can have a profound effect stating that REITS [Real Estate Investment Trusts] who had a female board member for three years or more experienced higher shareholder returns. So, if that doesn’t make perfect business sense I am not sure what does!
Communicating to women and girls what the opportunities are in the sector and getting them engaged
This is a great industry to be in and it’s a wonderful profession that is just about as diverse as you want it to be. Being a Chartered Surveyor gives you a truly global passport. With statistics like $53 trillion being invested in infrastructure through to 2030, places like India building a city the size of Chicago every year for the next 26 years and 66% of the world population living in cities by 2050 – there has never been a better or more exciting time to be part of the industry and truly make a difference.
The best advice I received when I entered the profession was: “Just be yourself, recognise you are different and make a difference to the world around you. Build a better working world.”
Being a good role model for the profession
Next year is my big year as the incoming President. My priority is to be a good role model for the profession, to be an ambassador and to lead.
Having the support of EY to enable me to do this is incredible.
My focus will be naturally on the role of RICS, our members and our firms, in infrastructure and construction, but, I will also naturally continue our focus on diversity and inclusion in the profession. Plus I want to focus on London as my home market, as well as China.
It is an exciting time for RICS. We are involved on the global compact for sustainability. We are developing new standards, through global coalitions, on International Property Measurement Standards (IPMS) as well as Ethics and International Construction Measurement Standards (ICMS). We are working more collaboratively than ever with other professions and kindred bodies.
Currently over 50% of our new members come from outside the UK and by 2020 50% of our whole membership will be outside the UK. This requires us to think and operate differently. As such we are looking at restructuring ourselves to best suit that opportunity for 2020 and beyond!