An insight into Linzi’s journey into this male-dominated field
For many years the property sector has been largely populated by men. In fact the latest figures show that just 15% of its workforce are women.
However, one leading Commercial Property business in Lincolnshire is changing that with a representation of just under 50% female employees.
Banks Long & Co’s Linzi Hewitt, who recently started employment as a Senior Surveyor, explains her journey into this male dominated industry and speaks openly about the attitudes, changes and opportunities which can encourage more women into the sector.
How did I get into the property sector?
Well, my route into the industry was not a traditional one. I actually started my career working in football as a Facilities and Investment Lead for the county. This involved developing projects from the ideas of local grassroot volunteers, to creating a business plan, working with local authorities to develop the strategy and then finding the investment to make that project a reality.
I was involved in every aspect of the planning and preparation of building and investment works, but as soon as the spade went into the ground, I would step back until the cutting of the ribbon was completed to open the facility. I felt as if I was missing a huge part of the process, and to be honest, the part that interested me the most.
Growing up, my Dad was in construction, and when able, I would always help him with projects around the home as a labourer. I enjoyed learning new skills and had a role model to learn from and inspire me.
Wanting to pursue my interest in property and construction, at the age of 30, after working for County Football Associations for just over 10 years, I changed my career to undertake a role for a local building contractor. I worked alongside the Director and another colleague who was a Quantity Surveyor, supporting in any way that I could. After a short time, the business recognized my passion for learning and developing my career and presented me with the opportunity to do a formal course with RICS in Quantity Surveying. This was a distance learning programme I completed in my own time whilst working full-time on 3 to 4 live building projects in my role. It was a quick learning curve, but every day was different and I loved it.
Was it difficult entering a male focused industry?
I think whenever anyone works with someone new, it is natural to have initial perceptions or assumptions before you really get to know that person. These will be based on whether that person is male or female, young or old, or perhaps whether they are wearing a formal suit or casually dressed. At the time in most instances I was walking onto a building site as the only woman, but actually I didn’t feel that made a factor in others' perception of me. I quickly came to realise that following my first few interactions with new people, they made an assessment of me based on my standards of work and ability to fulfil the role.
If you stay consistent in your work, communicate often and treat people with respect, then that is what really counts and people base an opinion of you on that.
Did the visibility of female role models affect your career choice?
Up until now in my career development there has definitely been a lack of female figures and senior role models, but at the time I didn’t feel as if that affected my growth, determination or career choices. I have always been able to learn from and be inspired by male role models equally by work ethic, ambition or skill, then adapt those traits to my own career.
The real change for me happened more recently, when upon joining Banks Long & Co, for the first time I was working in an environment where I shared the room with other female professionals who were in senior roles with professional memberships and accreditations. That awareness and visibility around me has given me an extra drive and motivation that has challenged my own thoughts on personal development, and inspired me to continue to push in my career to reach an equal level to them. I guess this is the first time in my career that I have truly recognised the importance of that.
Could changes in education inspire more women into property and construction?
This is a difficult question to assess, as during my earlier education I was always very passionate about sport, so I naturally focused on that pathway, which led me towards my early career in Football.
Despite my Dad being in construction, at the time I never really considered a career in it when in education. But knowing what I know now, I don’t think the opportunities were really there for me to guide me into that direction anyway towards the role I am in now.
The routes available for construction at school and college were always focused towards becoming a trades-person, being hands on as a plumber, electrician or bricklayer which didn’t appeal to me. There was no real focus or knowledge on other technical roles within the industry such as surveyors, architects, structural engineers, project managers or health and safety consultants.
The options within the property industry are vast, and constantly developing, but I don’t think that the education environment necessarily reflects that variety. Specifically a career such as surveying is often a career that people stumble across at a later point rather than aspiring to be in at a young age.
What’s next for me?
Having found a career that I love, I want to continue to progress on this pathway. Now working for Banks Long & Co, I have the opportunity to gather more experience, learn from others in the organisation and begin a new phase of professional development.
I have set myself a goal over the next two years to achieve my Masters in Surveying and work towards becoming a Chartered Surveyor. The long-term goal from there is to establish myself as a key member of the team at Banks Long & Co and hopefully extend my role into senior management. You have to dream big!