A Career in Surveying as a Woman - the good, the bad, and the ugly.

A Career in Surveying as a Woman - the good, the bad, and the ugly.
21/3/23
Article by Ailesh MacGillicuddy

My early years were spent growing up in North-West Sydney; eating vegemite on toast for breakfast, riding my bike or catching the bus to the local public school. I was just another normal kid. Fast forward to today, I’m now a Registered Land Surveyor, who still enjoys vegemite on toast for breakfast and do not see myself as any different to my peers.  

When I finished high school in 2008, it never felt like a bold choice choosing surveying as a career. I have three older brothers and we were all raised exactly the same with equal opportunity – whether it was learning to cook or helping work on the car.  

What was it that made me choose surveying? Well, my strengths during school were maths and technical drawing, which led me towards engineering. This, coupled with my love for the outdoors, led me to surveying. I was interested in a career that didn’t confine me to a desk 9am to 5pm, five days a week.  

While I was aware that surveying (and engineering) is a male dominated industry, this became very apparent at my first engineering lecture at UNSW. Looking around, I was one of very few females in the room and felt quite out of place. I tried not to think too much about it and I just got stuck into my studies.  

My efforts saw me graduating top of my class, with first class honours. Looking back now, I do question why I put in so much additional effort into my studies rather than enjoying uni life more? As a woman, surrounded by men, did I unconsciously feel like I had to prove myself? Or was it just a reflection of my personality? This, I might never be able to answer.  

During the semester breaks, I worked as a surveyor’s assistant. My day-to-day included, setting up tripods, holding the prism pole or level staff, putting pegs in the ground, or operating the survey instrument, known as the total station. This may not sound very glamorous, but what I really enjoy as a surveyor is playing a key role in transforming design/ architectural plans through construction, to completion.  

I always say, surveyors are the first and the last on site.

This was my first experience on construction sites. As a female, and only 18 at this stage, heads were turned at every site. My colleagues were very supportive, and while recognising I may not be able to carry or lift as much as a male counterpart, they did not discriminate. I did however have to quickly learn to ignore comments on site and build an immunity to ‘wolf whistles.’  

In the article title I did promise the ugly, and here it is... This was also my first experience of portaloos on construction sites. This is no place any woman wants to go! It is surprising how long one can avoid going to the toilet when this is the only option. I certainly appreciate larger sites which now have women’s only facilities.

I finished my degree in 2012 and started working full-time in a small surveying firm in North-West Sydney. After a couple of years, I registered as a Candidate to begin sitting exams to become a Registered Surveyor. Candidates are examined in Rural, Urban, Strata, Town Planning and Engineering.  

With some experience now under my belt, I started ‘party leading’ - leading field survey teams and managing survey projects. This came with a new set of challenges.  

It wasn’t uncommon for the site supervisor to address my male surveyor’s assistant first, asking them technical questions, only to be politely re-directed to myself. At times, I was not recognised on site as being a professional with the skills and qualifications to complete the job.

I have also received mixed responses from clients. At times, I was assumed to be the partner of my male colleague. On the flip side, I fondly remember a client being delighted to have an all female surveying team working on her property.  

In 2016, I completed my fifth and final exam to receive my Certificate of Competency in Land Surveying and became approximately the 26th female Registered Land Surveyor in NSW.  

When the Board of Surveying and Spatial Information (BOSSI) of NSW presented their yearly statistical review at a conference I was attending, I was elated to see that, at age 25, I was the youngest. At this time, only 3% of the 924 registered land surveyors in NSW were female.  

I remained at the same firm until the end of 2021, when I decided it was time to move on for a new challenge. At the beginning of 2022, I started at Orion Group, as the lead surveyor in their Sydney office. I was primarily attracted to Orion Group for their inclusive culture and their ambitions to push the boundaries, particularly with new technology.

What does my day-to-day look like now? Like many other senior surveyors, I have found myself falling into the trap of spending most of my days sitting behind a desk, contradicting one of my reasons for choosing surveying. I now cherish every opportunity to get back in the field, except if it’s 40°C outside or blowing a gale.  

Some typical day-to-day tasks include:  

  • Undertaking property searches (titles and plans),  
  • Boundary calculations,  
  • Lot calculations for subdivisions,  
  • Preparation of subdivision plans,  
  • Mentoring and training,  
  • Project scheduling,  
  • Forecasting and quoting.  

As a surveyor, I have never been concerned about getting stuck in a field I no longer enjoy - there are so many different paths on offer. I have recently been branching out from traditional cadastral surveying to Unmanned Arial Vehicles (UAV), more commonly referred to as drones.  

Drones are rapidly become more prevalent in society, including the surveying industry. I believe surveyors are the best qualified professionals to understand their capabilities, accuracies and define when they are ‘fit for purpose’. I jumped at the opportunity to obtain my UAV pilots licence and look forward to exploring this technology further.  

To maintain registration, land surveyors in NSW are required to complete continuing professional development each year. This is commonly achieved through conferences organised by the Institute of Surveyors NSW (ISNSW) and the Association of Consulting Surveyors (ACS).  

I recently attended the ISNSW Annual Conference in Newcastle, with 188 attendees in person, only 5 were female. This is pretty typical for the industry, which I have heard aptly described as ‘male, stale and pale’. While I find it somewhat daunting arriving at surveying events, being comparatively young and female and not fitting in with the crowd, it also gives me a great sense of achievement.  

I am proud to be representing women in a male dominated industry.  

Over the last seven years, I am pleased to see the number of females getting into surveying on the rise, we now make up 4% of registered land surveyors in NSW. While traversing a career in surveying as a woman has come with some challenges, I encourage any young women not to allow this to become a barrier to enjoy a great career in this industry.  

I hope this article provides some insight into the industry, raises awareness, and helps to inspire the next generation to consider surveying.  

Together, as a society, I believe we need to continue to change our mindsets and not limit opportunity based on stereotyping. We need to hire based on individual merit, and not to meet equality targets.  

The future of surveying is bright, and I look forward to mentoring the next generation.

A Career in Surveying as a Woman - the good, the bad, and the ugly.
More news
Next Post
Congrats 👏 you are all caught up! Check back soon for our next post.
Back to all posts
Previous Post
There is no previous post.
Back to all posts
Orion Group Moves to Wollongong’s CBD Where Big Things Are Happening

Orion Group Moves to Wollongong’s CBD Where Big Things Are Happening

5/4/24
All
Company News
Riverstone East Stage 3 Summary

Riverstone East Stage 3 Summary

21/2/24
All
Insights
Industry Update November 2023

Industry Update November 2023

28/11/23
All
Company News
Sydney Water WSC Licence now held by the Orion Group

Sydney Water WSC Licence now held by the Orion Group

30/8/23
Article by Florian Jaehne
All
Company News
Drone and Terrestrial Photogrammetry - Enhancing Land Development and Detail Road Surveys

Drone and Terrestrial Photogrammetry - Enhancing Land Development and Detail Road Surveys

1/8/23
Ryan Pearce
All
Innovation
Industry Update - Q4, 2023

Industry Update - Q4, 2023

5/7/23
Orion Group
All
Company News
The Water Team: Enhancing Infrastructure Development and Utility Coordination

The Water Team: Enhancing Infrastructure Development and Utility Coordination

30/5/23
Florian Jaehne
All
Insights
The Power of Lunch and Learns

The Power of Lunch and Learns

16/5/23
Christopher Scholes
All
Insights
Everything You Need to Know About Sydney Water’s Infrastructure Contributions

Everything You Need to Know About Sydney Water’s Infrastructure Contributions

2/5/23
All
Insights
Effective Stakeholder Management, Communication and Relationships

Effective Stakeholder Management, Communication and Relationships

26/4/23
Article by Natalie Galea
All
Insights
Industry Update - Q3, 2023

Industry Update - Q3, 2023

5/4/23
All
Company News
A Career in Surveying as a Woman - the good, the bad, and the ugly.

A Career in Surveying as a Woman - the good, the bad, and the ugly.

21/3/23
Article by Ailesh MacGillicuddy
All
Insights
20 Years of Navigating the Water Industry as a Water Engineer

20 Years of Navigating the Water Industry as a Water Engineer

6/2/23
Florian Jaehne
All
Insights
Orion Group Expands Their Horizons

Orion Group Expands Their Horizons

19/1/23
All
Company News
New Rezonings and Call for Proponent Nominated Rezonings

New Rezonings and Call for Proponent Nominated Rezonings

6/12/22
All
Insights
The Importance of a Well-Constructed Civil Engineering Design - Urban

The Importance of a Well-Constructed Civil Engineering Design - Urban

17/11/22
Article by Reece Stichter
All
Insights
5 Tips for Managing Construction Projects During Wet Weather

5 Tips for Managing Construction Projects During Wet Weather

24/10/22
Article by Wayne Azzopardi
All
Insights
STEM Schools Challenge of 2022

STEM Schools Challenge of 2022

28/9/22
All
Company News
Introducing Orion Group's New Technical Director - Construction

Introducing Orion Group's New Technical Director - Construction

25/9/22
All
Company News
Orion Group's Remotely-Piloted Aircraft System Update

Orion Group's Remotely-Piloted Aircraft System Update

23/9/22
All
Company News
Introducing Orion Group's New Project Engineer

Introducing Orion Group's New Project Engineer

20/9/22
All
Company News
R U OK? DAY

R U OK? DAY

8/9/22
All
Company News
Jersey Day

Jersey Day

2/9/22
All
Company News
Introducing Orion Group's New Project Director

Introducing Orion Group's New Project Director

1/9/22
All
Company News
Beach2Beach Charity Fun Run

Beach2Beach Charity Fun Run

31/8/22
All
Company News
Constructing You Podcast with Philip Byrum

Constructing You Podcast with Philip Byrum

30/8/22
All
Company News
Industry Update August 2022

Industry Update August 2022

22/8/22
All
Company News
Introducing Orion Group's Recent Career Developments

Introducing Orion Group's Recent Career Developments

10/8/22
All
Company News
UDIA's 2022 Vice Chair for the Illawarra Committee

UDIA's 2022 Vice Chair for the Illawarra Committee

28/7/22
All
Company News
Orion Group Industrial Team Update

Orion Group Industrial Team Update

27/7/22
All
Company News
The World's Greatest Shave

The World's Greatest Shave

25/7/22
All
Company News
Annual Women in Property Luncheon

Annual Women in Property Luncheon

25/7/22
All
Company News
Industry Update May 2022

Industry Update May 2022

31/5/22
All
Company News
Introducing Orion Group's New UAV and Digital Lead

Introducing Orion Group's New UAV and Digital Lead

31/5/22
All
Company News
UDIA's 2022 Legends and Legacy Program

UDIA's 2022 Legends and Legacy Program

27/5/22
All
Company News
Australia's Biggest Morning Tea

Australia's Biggest Morning Tea

19/5/22
All
Company News
Introducing Orion Group's New Technical Director

Introducing Orion Group's New Technical Director

9/3/22
All
Company News
Industry Update March 2022

Industry Update March 2022

8/3/22
All
Company News
International Women's Day 2022

International Women's Day 2022

7/3/22
All
Company News
World Engineering Day

World Engineering Day

7/3/22
All
Company News
Introducing Orion Group's New Design Manager - Infrastructure & Industrial

Introducing Orion Group's New Design Manager - Infrastructure & Industrial

17/2/22
All
Company News
Introducing Orion Group's New Team Members

Introducing Orion Group's New Team Members

17/2/22
All
Company News
Enhancing Residential Sales

Enhancing Residential Sales

16/2/22
All
Insights
Introducing Orion Group & KFW's New Registered Surveyor

Introducing Orion Group & KFW's New Registered Surveyor

1/2/22
All
Company News
Drone Eyed View

Drone Eyed View

27/1/22
All
Innovation
Introducing Orion Group's New Project Mangment Intern

Introducing Orion Group's New Project Mangment Intern

23/1/22
All
Company News
UDIA Committee Members 2022

UDIA Committee Members 2022

20/1/22
All
Company News
Opportunity

Opportunity

10/1/22
Philip Byrum
All
Company News
Orion Group Welcomes Martin Wells as Company Advisor

Orion Group Welcomes Martin Wells as Company Advisor

16/12/21
All
Company News
NSW Infrastructure Trianeeship Program

NSW Infrastructure Trianeeship Program

13/12/21
All
Company News
Do I Really Need a Project Manager?

Do I Really Need a Project Manager?

1/12/21
Joshua Pineda
All
Insights
The Real Role of The Superintendent

The Real Role of The Superintendent

14/11/21
All
Insights
Orion Group and KFW Infrastructure Professionals

Orion Group and KFW Infrastructure Professionals

8/12/20
All
Company News
Your Interest + Our People = Success

Your Interest + Our People = Success

22/11/20
Joshua Pineda
All
Company News
The Trinity F90

The Trinity F90

20/10/20
All
Innovation
Next Generation Orion

Next Generation Orion

10/10/20
Dominic Lynch
All
Company News
Sydney Science Park CSIRO Urban Living Lab

Sydney Science Park CSIRO Urban Living Lab

16/9/20
All
Innovation
Blue Sky Thinking

Blue Sky Thinking

9/9/20
Dominic Lynch
All
Insights
Why Developers Need a Post-2020 Profit Strategy for NSW Growth Centre Developments

Why Developers Need a Post-2020 Profit Strategy for NSW Growth Centre Developments

15/7/20
Brad Harkins
All
Insights
Rethinking Rain - Our 'Real Time' Guidelines

Rethinking Rain - Our 'Real Time' Guidelines

28/8/19
Christopher Scholes
All
Insights
Orion has Expanded!

Orion has Expanded!

20/5/19
All
Company News
Want to Solve Problems Faster? Think Positive!

Want to Solve Problems Faster? Think Positive!

4/4/19
James Green
All
Insights
Orion Are Now Operating from Wollongong

Orion Are Now Operating from Wollongong

13/7/18
All
Company News

Sign up for
industry
news and updates