Ahead of International Women’s Day, 8 March, 2023, we talk to Imogen Foster, MRICS, Senior Building Surveyor, and member of the Workman Women’s Equality Employee Network about her role within the firm, and what more she thinks the property industry could be doing to make change happen for female building surveyors.
What three words describe Workman?
Collaborative, varied, social.
What has been your standout moment at Workman so far?
It is probably the same for a lot of people within the firm (and the industry) but passing my APC to become chartered last summer was a big moment for me, both as part of my career progression but also just as a personal achievement. The feeling of not having to do any more revision or mock interviews was great (as I’m sure my colleagues who kindly sat through numerous mocks and Q&As with me would agree) and it was a real confidence boost for me in my work.
How have you put your skills to their best use on a Workman project?
A big part of the role of a building surveyor is managing your time and ensuring you are able to give the right amount of time and attention to each project you are working on. I feel my time management and attention to detail has really helped me to juggle delivering multiple successful projects for different clients at the same time. I can also react quickly to change, which is always important on a construction project!
I have an inquisitive nature and always try to know much as I can about each project I am working on, and I am always learning from my senior colleagues along the way.
Tell us about your role within building surveying, and why you feel this is important to the firm?
I feel my role as a Senior Building Surveyor is important to the firm as it involves working with people throughout our team, as well as other departments in the firm, on a variety of projects and surveys of all different sizes. I have also started working with a number of our Apprentice Building Surveyors and I feel that having recently completed the graduate scheme I can provide some good insight into the role and the APC process to them.
As a member of Workman’s Women’s Equality Employee Network, what difference do you believe it, and others like it, can make to the industry as a whole?
Having a diverse workforce in terms of gender, race, disability etc. is really important not just in our industry, but in all industries. By having ED&I networks in place, progress can be made in terms of improving policies and that actually suit and reflect the requirements of those they relate to. Receiving feedback ‘direct from the source’ with people being able to freely discuss their own experiences, can be the most important part of making changes towards equity in the industry.
What more could the property industry be doing to make change happen for female building surveyors?
For me, one of the most valuable ways to make change for female building surveyors is to encourage more young women into the industry.
It is not a career that many young women consider, and I think a lot of that is to do with not having knowledge of the role and all the interesting and varied work involved in it (for example, a lot of people who aren’t in the industry do not realise how much Project Management is involved in Building Surveying), as well as the stigma that it is a male-only role. One of the ways I think this can be best achieved is by speaking to young women in schools and universities about the role, the options available, and the different paths into the career.
What change would you make to the wider property sector? And why?
I would like to see more diversity within senior roles, as I believe their influence can have a really big impact on the industry as a whole.
What are your spare time pursuits and how do they feed into your role at Workman?
I like to travel as much as possible when I can and enjoy wild/sea swimming, especially back in Cornwall where I grew up. I also love to bake and trying new recipes, something I’m sure my housemate also appreciates.
What first led you into the property industry?
I had originally considered a career in politics, however I decided that in the current climate, that wasn’t for me. I have always been interested in buildings and architecture, and wanted a role that wasn’t just sitting at my desk and had some variety. So really it was building surveying or being Prime Minister – I think I made the right decision!
What is your favourite building worldwide and why?
I have always loved the Tate Modern and the feeling of awe walking into the Turbine Hall from the South Bank, especially when there is an interesting or moving exhibition taking place.
What book or podcast do you recommend?
I’m a big fan of the Off Menu podcast and can often be found asking people to tell me their dream menu – starter, main course, side dish, dessert, and drink.