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The Importance of Operating in the Mainstream.

South Asian heritage month ends on 17 August 2023.

Stories shared by property professional real estate institutions show how South Asians have impacted their professions and become part of their heritage.

People of South Asian heritage, make up most of the AMSI community, they are an important part of our identity.

The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS).

To find out the makeup of their profession, the RICS put a call out that said:

"Help drive meaningful progress in Diversity Equity and Inclusion through data and insights!"

They say Members can update fully protected individual data by accessing their profile online at any point - that is the RICS online platform.

The importance of data is it can help to understand the baseline and the context today, in the RICS's case, they seek data to know the make of their community.

After the RICS recent report on women in the profession which showed they make up 18% of their 134,000 global membership community, with South Asians a small part and women from those communities a tiny part.

I asked what they plan to do next.

Because the principal in the inclusion of the word Equity in DEI is for resources to be targeted in areas to help remove barriers for societies' most disadvantaged, it is different from Equality.

That is those people who take the longest journey to achieve a particular goal, such as professional membership.

One thing I know is that more recently they do a lot to support societies such as AMSI.

But I remember being the woman on the outside and I worked hard to get in, and so did many of the first South Asian Chartered Surveyors.

The Royal Institution of British Architects (RIBA).

From my early days in the profession and when I bought land and built homes for housing associations, I always had a love of architecture.

Good architects are visionaries, design is everything, I remember when I picked up legacy traditional contracts, the architect's passion for design caused no end-of-cost problems, I may have just been unlucky, but the project won awards, I cannot remember the name now.

Due to this I preferred design and build, then partnership contracts became popular, but even then I reserved the client's position to end the contract or to test the market just in case, the contractor took advantage that we were already in a relationship.

But RIBA shared the story of Minnette de Silva: "the architect in a sari."

She was the first Asian woman to become an associate of RIBA, the first woman architect from Sri Lanka, and only one of the two women in the world to lead her own practice in 1948.

Her story is of success and sadness, there is much one can draw from her story, the article author draws parallels between Minnette's work and that of Yasmeen Lari.

Law Society

Although not a real estate profession, the law society is a parallel professional organisation, as a UK body there are similar examples and lessons one can draw.

The Law Society whose current President is a South Asian woman, Lubna Shuja shared the story of Sarah Khan Bashir, a solicitor who in 2007 got many rejection letters.

Due to rejections, she set up her own now successful practice that has since helped over 200 people in their careers, she specialises in divorce.

Like Minnette, even Yasmeen Lari, this year's RIBA Kings Gold Medal winner, it is interesting that Sarah and all three women found success in their practices and on their own.

Common themes

To have your own practice is not easy and their work is commendable, as is the work of so many other South Asians in the professions.

At the first AMSI event Qasim Khattak, MRICS told us he was the youngest ever chartered surveyor, I also know Rubina Nisar is possibly one of the first UK chartered surveyors in our community. Rubina qualified in 1987, I did ask that she shares her story, and I expect she will when she is ready.

Typically of that time and in line with the journey of migrant families in the UK, most early surveyors came through public sector jobs.

Or they formed their own societies, religious movements, charities or housing associations, a sector I know well and where I started my corporate real estate journey.

It was a BME little housing association that paid for my Housing and then Management qualifications, they recruited 4 people together, we were all in our 20s, and we all worked in Housing Management then.

The good news

Almost three decades on, time is not the same, while a lot of the AMSI community is young, there is more balance between, those that work in private real estate practice, and public jobs and I am not sure that many are in community or charity jobs.

Most are educated in UK mainstream society, yes some still struggle, but the majority are able and capable to compete for jobs, particularly in cities, the younger generation is professional.

Outside London and cities maybe there are still issues, but for a while, I found success in those locations, I was the only woman sometimes and even the only young person, so I do not buy being different is a problem, it just depends on where you work.

The work done to raise the profile of people within them has meant the RICS says the number of people going forward for their professional exam has gone up by 56%, in numbers that is 2,000 people.

This is a big increase and I also know the number of South Asians in those numbers going forward and from the AMSI community is going up.

Our offer

To help candidates, I offer the opportunity for RICS Counselling to guide people, talk through individual submissions, and make sure people are OK to go forward.

I have also registered to be an RICS interview panel assessor or Chair, I never had time for this before but I do now, but it is also good to put yourself forward to assess people as not only does it help the profession, it also helps you stay up to date and to reflect on your own practice.

In terms of surveying basics, at 23 I was the first housing office that did her own rent arrears case for a housing association and I won.

It was a little difficult after the court hearing as the South Asian family who liked me, asked if I wanted to go over for tea, I had to say "I am sorry, I do not think it is right for me, and I am sorry I had to take you to court."

I said, "Please make sure you pay your rent properly as in the court order or you will lose your home," but had I not operated in the mainstream I do not think I would have had the opportunities I did.

September event

Despite a lot of noise on social media platforms, one thing I have come to appreciate is real work gets done through 1-2-1 conversations, so each Friday for the past 2 weeks, London Central Mosque has had me in their congregation for Friday prayers.

Why? - because I have been trying to sort out a proper plan for a visit by the RICS President in September.

These events do not just happen, and therefore they are only open to members that value the AMSI service, the President's guests, and also anyone the Mosque has, it should be a good event, should you have any questions get in contact.

Happy Friday, from London Central Mosque.

Sarah Chaudhry



Surveyor Store Ltd

07521 085400

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