FIG Task Force on Under-Represented Groups in Surveying




Gender in the Habitat Agenda: 
Implications for the International Federation of Surveyors (FIG)

by Diana Lee-Smith and Sylvie Lacroux, UNCHS (Habitat)

Personalities: Kirsi Artimo

Engineering Education: for Ourselves and for the Public
by Wendy J. Woodbury Straight

Gender in the Habitat Agenda:
Implications for the International Federation of Surveyors (FIG)

Background paper for the FIG Working Week session on
Under-represented Groups in Surveying in south Africa, 2nd June 1999

by Diana Lee-Smith and Sylvie Lacroux, UNCHS (Habitat)

This information paper addresses the relevance of the Habitat Agenda for the work of the International Federation of Surveyors (FIG). It draws the conclusion that, in addressing the new type of work implied by the Habitat Agenda, there are two factors of critical importance:

– the involvement of under-represented groups in surveying, and
– the centrality of gender mainstreaming in FIG's work.

The nineteen nineties was a decade of international conferences that charted directions in key areas of social and political action. The Fourth World Conference on Women in 1995 produced the Beijing Platform for Action. This in turn influenced the Second Conference on Human Settlements of 1996 (Habitat II) which produced the Habitat Agenda. Gender equality is one of the major commitments of the Habitat Agenda and permeates its detail. There are two aspects of this:

– Addressing the circumstances of women's lives and work in human settlements, and
– Women's equal involvement in decision-making and control of human settlements, which entails higher levels of skill and technical competence for them.

The two substantive areas of the Habitat Agenda address:

– Adequate Shelter for All
– Sustainable Human Settlements Development in an Urbanizing World

It is the first of these areas that most applies to the work of FIG. The introduction to this part of the document states in paragraph 61 that the goal of adequate shelter for all

...requires action not only by governments but by all sections of society....including partner organizations...These actions include...
(b) providing legal security of tenure and equal access to land for all including women...
(c) (v) mobilizing innovative financial and other resources for housing and community development...

The challenge for the surveying profession is the extension of new methods, tools and techniques of surveying and land development to vast areas of new settlement, and to existing informal settlements, working with low income people and women in particular through various organizations. This entails new types of professional working methods, as well as capacity building and skills development for the organizations with which surveyors will work.

The Habitat Agenda contains many detailed recommendations in the areas of Housing Policies (paragraphs 66-70) and Shelter Delivery Systems (paragraphs 71-92) which are of interest to FIG. Shelter Delivery Systems are addressed in relation to:

– Enabling markets to work
– Facilitating community based access to housing
– Ensuring access to land
– Mobilizing finance, and
– Ensuring access to basic infrastructure and services

Among the shelter delivery mechanisms that will enable property markets to work, the Habitat Agenda recommends that governments:

72. (c) Employ mechanisms (for example a body of law, a cadastre, rules for property valuation and others) for the clear definition of property rights
72. (e) Undertake legislative and administrative reforms to give women full and equal access to economic resources, including the right to inheritance and the ownership of land and other property.

Among the shelter delivery mechanisms that will facilitate community based housing, the Habitat Agenda recommends that governments:

74. (a) Promote self-built housing...
(b) Integrate...self-built housing, especially through appropriate land registration programmes, as...part of the overall housing and infrastructure system...
(f) Facilitate regular dialogue and gender sensitive participation of the various actors involved in housing production...
(g) Mitigate the problems related to spontaneous human settlements....

Clearly, if FIG members are going to be involved in processes of this type, they themselves will need know-how in community development, housing rights, self-help construction processes, gender issues including women's land rights, traditional systems of land allocation and so on. Thus there is a need for two kinds of capacity building in order to work within the scope of the Habitat Agneda:

– Capacity building for professionals on working with low income communities
– Capacity building for low income communities on land development.

Among the shelter delivery mechanisms that will ensure access to land, the Habitat Agenda recommends that governments:

76. (a) Recognize and legitmate the diversity of land delivery mechanisms;
(b) Decentralize land management responsibilities and provide local capacity building...
(c) Prepare comprehensive inventories of publicly held land and, where appropriate, develop programmes for making them available for shelter and human settlements development, including, where appropriate, development by non-governmental and community based organizations;
(d) ......Utilize land-based and other forms of taxation... for service provision by local authorities;
(f) information systems and practices for managing land...and...ensure that such information is readily available;
(j) Develop appropriate cadastral systems and streamline land registration procedures in order to facilitate the regularization of informal settlements where appropriate and simplify land transactions;
(k) Develop land codes and legal frameworks that define the nature of land and real property and the rights that are formally recognized;
(l) Mobilize local and regional expertise to promote research, the transfer of technology and education programmes to support land administration systems,....

77. (e) Review restrictive, exclusionary and costly legal and regulatory processes, planning systems, standards and development regulations.

78. To eradicate legal and social barriers to the equal and equitable access to land, especially the access of women....Governments..should...
(f) Undertake legislative and administrative reforms to give women full and equal access to economic resources including the right to inheritance and the ownership of land and other property...

79. (f) (ii) ...recognize organizations as credit holders...
(iv) building...of non-governmental organizations and peoples' organizations to make them efficient and competent partners...

In a later section of the Habitat Agenda dealing with International Cooperation and Coordination, new forms of cooperation, partnership and coordination are advocated at all levels in order to ensure adequate shelter for all (paragraph 194). Global networks are envisaged for the transfer of technologies, including south-south transfers, to enhance the capabilities of developing countries, especially those in Africa, to provide shelter to their communities (paragraph 206). This paragraph specifically urges governments to:

206. (f) Enhance the identification and dissemination of those new and promising technologies related to human settlements that generate employment, especially those that lower the cost of infrastructure, make basic services more affordable and minimize detrimental environmental impacts...

Finally, paragraph 207 recommends capacity building and exchange of information through technical cooperation to bring this about.

All of these modes of working partnerships between communities, local authorities, professionals, NGOs and governments within and between regions entail some innovations for professionals. It would be insufficient for FIG members to simply engage in the transfer of new technologies. Rather, the whole method of professional work has to shift its focus to working with low-income communities who have limited resources.

The scope for involving under-represented groups in surveying is extensive. Not only do the ranks of the surveying profession need to be inclusive of women as well as men. Surveyors need to be able to work with women as well as men who live in low-income communities. Low income women and men also need to develop surveying skills. Members of previously excluded racial and low income groups need access to the profession. And above all, members of the profession need to develop a way of thinking and working that is inclusive of those who were previously excluded.

The proposed global networks should facilitate the development of professional land development skills among women, people from the South and people from low income communities. But those under-represented groups also have things to bring to the profession. The profession must also learn from them about gender, about working with the poor, and about working in countries of the South.

By Diana Lee-Smith and Sylvie Lacroux, UNCHS (Habitat), PO Box 30030 Nairobi, Kenya, e-mail: and Sylvie Lacroux, e-mail


Kirsi Artimo, Professor in Cartography and Geoinformatics (45 years) has graduted in 1977 as an architect and then made her licentiate thesis on the use of GIS in land use planning. In 1984 she doctorated at the Dept. of Surveying at Helsinki University of Technology and the topic of the thesis was " On semantic approach to the design of urban land information systems".

Mrs. Artimo has been working in various public and private enterprises since 1982 mainly as a systems (GIS) designer or GIS expert. Main employees in before starting to work at HUT: Soil and Water Ldt , National Land Survey of Finland, The Finnish Geodetic Institute.

At the moment Mrs. Artimo is acting as a professor in Cartography and GIS at the Department of Surveying in Helsinki University of Technology. Besides this she has since 1988 taken part in several GIS projects mostly as GIS-expert consulting in preparing and evaluating call for tenders for municipalities, giving statements and evaluating GIS strategies. Most important projects during the latest years are the evaluation of GIS strategy of Espoo City and acting as GIS expert in the Finnish Land Parcel GIS -project of the Ministry of Agriculture. She has also experience in working abroad and in foreign projects: during 79-80 she worked as a research fellow at Delft University of Technology and also took part in the Cairo underground map development project with Soil and Water in 1987. Mrs. Artimo has also worked as an EU evaluator in the GI 2000 projects. On the academic sector she was lately an expert in filling the GI professorships at Luleå Technical University (Sweden), Uppsala University(Sweden) and Helsinki University (Finland).Currently she is lecturing GIS at HUT and leading the Curriculum of Cartography and GIS.

In FIG she has been working for Commission 2 for several years, first as the secretary, then vice-chair and now as the chair from 1998. On the topic "Women in Surveying" she was one of the establishers of the task force. On the same topic ("Women in Cartography") she has been working in ICA (International Cartographic Association) since 1989.

Engineering Education: 
for Ourselves and for the Public

By Wendy J. Woodbury Straight, USA

There is recent indication that the National Society of Professional Surveyors (NSPS) is rekindling its Forum for Equal Opportunity (EO Forum). An outgrowth of the Forum for Women in Surveying, the EO Forum once boasted a healthy membership of 150 women and other traditionally under-represented persons in the geomatics professions. The need to reactivate the Forum is part of an overall NSPS effort to freshen its image and to retain its membership. Also, it is recognized that a well-spoken surveyors' association is needed at the national level to elevate the image of surveyors in the public eye.

The engineering profession as a whole has been suffering from a lack of large-scale, positive press. A Harris poll released last September and highlighted by the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) indicated that members of the American public, particularly women, feel uninformed about the engineering enterprise. The poll was conducted last July by commission of the American Association of Engineering Societies (AAES). The survey reported that 45 percent of Americans are of the opinion that they are not well informed about engineering, and another 16 percent think that they are not at all well informed about the subject.

Among women, however, the percentages increased to 55 percent and 23 percent, respectively. While education level correlated positively to how well the respondent felt informed, the majority of college graduates (53 percent) still reported that they were not very well informed or not at all well informed about engineers.

AAES Chair Martha Sloan, a professor of electrical engineering at Michigan Technological University, said, "Engineers have played a pivotal role in developing the technologies that maintain our nation's economic, environmental, and national security. They revolutionized medicine with pacemakers and MRI scanners. They changed the world with the development of television and transistors, computers and the Internet. They introduced new concepts in transportation, power, satellite communications, earthquake-resistant buildings and strain-resistant crops by applying scientific discoveries to human needs. Despite these contributions to society, this stealth profession, whose membership numbers more than 2 million in the U.S. alone, remains largely invisible...."

Sloan noted an alarming prospect. "As our nation's workforce continues the transition from one which is predominantly male and Caucasian to one which will be majority female and African American, Asian and Hispanic, the price we pay in our society for engineers having worked in such obscurity may not be known for another generation." She pointed out that though women make up 53.7 percent of the undergraduate student population, only 19.4 percent of students enrolled in undergraduate engineering programs are female. Enrollments among African Americans in undergraduate engineering programs declined in 1997 despite an overall increase in first-year degree programs.

ASCE's incoming president Delon Hampton is the first African American to hold the association's highest office. Regarding the survey results, he said, "Over the past thirty years, significant strides have been made in equal employment opportunity in the United States and we should be doing much better at reaching women and minorities than these poll results show." He noted that many Americans, especially women and minorities, do not consider engineering a field where they can achieve their maximum potential while utilizing their talents to serve society in the areas they care most about.

When asked to rate the quality of media coverage of science, technology, engineering, and medical discoveries, more than 69 percent of the Harris poll respondents assigned fair or poor grades to engineering reporting. Sloan said, "Essence of engineering is design and making things happen for the benefit of humanity....We as an engineering community must speak with pride about our engineers and our engineering achievements and not allow our profession to be wholly subsumed within the lexicon of science and technology."

Simultaneously with the Harris report came a paper by Suzanne G. Brainard and Linda Carlin of the University of Washington. Published in the Journal of Engineering Education, their research enumerated various aspects of intervention programs and their effect in the retention of women in engineering school.

In 1991, the Women in Engineering (WIE) Initiative at the University of Washington was funded by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation to conduct a longitudinal study of undergraduate women pursuing degrees in science or engineering. Objectives of the program are to (1) utilize tracking mechanisms to determine an accurate measure of retention, (2) examine factors affecting retention, and (3) evaluate the effectiveness of WIE programs.

Brainard and Carlin noted that women who enter engineering programs at the University of Washington are highly filtered achievers who begin with high levels of self-confidence about their abilities in mathematics and science. Over the course of the first year, confidence levels drop significantly, and do not fully recover over the next four years. Most women who switch out of engineering or science do so in the first or second year. Primary reasons given are losing interest in the discipline, being attracted by another field, or being discouraged by academic difficulties and a perception of low grades.

However, in spite of differences in self-confidence, comparison at the time of switching showed no difference in actual performance, as measured by grade point average, between women who persist in science and engineering and those who switch to a non-science major.

The authors were particularly interested in factors that affected persistence. Women who are most likely to persist through the freshmen year had chosen their major because they had enjoyed science and math in high school. They continue to enjoy these classes and they work well independently. They consider WIE and faculty to have a positive influence on them, they enjoy participation in the Society of Women Engineers (SWE), and they feel supported in their career choice by their mothers. Persistence in the sophomore year seems correlated to a positive relationship with an advisor, enjoyment of math and science classes, gaining acceptance in a department, and participating in SWE and internships.

Added to factors affecting female persistence in undergraduate engineering at the junior level are the positive influence of a mentor and participation in conferences. New factors emerging in the senior year are the rewarding influences of engineering classes and high quality of instruction.

Undergraduate engineering enrollments in the U.S. reached an all-time high of 406,144 students in 1983. By 1996, this figure had decreased to only 317,772. However, Brainard and Carlin pointed out that this decline was disproportionate between females and males. The enrollment of males declined 25 percent from 1983 to 1996, while the enrollment of females declined only 4 percent during the same period and has actually increased every year since 1989.

It appears that national efforts to increase the participation of women in engineering are having an impact. WIE was established in 1988 with the mission of increasing the enrollment and retention of women in undergraduate engineering programs. Changing demographics in the workforce had made it apparent that engineering disciplines were obligated to match stride with the increasing numbers of women in other fields. Yet various studies had shown that many women and other traditionally under-represented persons suffered from a lack of self-confidence in their math and science ability from high school onward, even when their skill levels were high.

At the University of Washington, WIE created a series of interventions or contact points to be implemented by personal interaction with each female student throughout her academic career, but focusing particularly on the freshman and sophomore years. Academic and social support, career planning, peer activities, orientation sessions, tutoring and mentoring are all integrated into the program.

Similar programs exist for women and other traditionally under-represented groups in engineering schools across the country. Evolving over the past decade, support groups have stressed the importance of hearing a mentor's story, sharing in both the successes of and barriers faced by those who have gone before.

Another article in the Journal of Engineering Education last October featured the journeys of women in engineering and computer science. Authors Susan Ambrose, Barbara Lazarus, and Indira Nair said, "These stories underscore the various factors that have been described in the literature as reasons women choose and stay in engineering." Examining anecdotes and personal histories of several women in engineering, and then reviewing a model of perceived self-efficacy, the paper provided insight into effective teaching and advising in engineering schools. Ambrose, Lazarus, and Nair pointed out that several authors have shown that occupational stereotypes are set early in a child's development. Few women are given the opportunity to consider engineering on their own when they are children. Many women tell how their parents had believed in them and encouraged them to follow their dreams; yet, the choice of engineering did not always meet with parental or counselor's approval. Numerous women explained that even one teacher or counselor taking the time to encourage the study of science or engineering made the crucial difference in their choice of a college major.

The literature on women in science and engineering discusses many stumbling blocks, said the authors, and among those are the unintended consequences of formal instruction, the negative attitudes of peers, and blatant sexism or harassment. Most women have had a mix of positive and negative experiences, but almost all have survived the periods of loneliness and self-doubt that plague members of an outgroup in engineering and related fields. They exhibited various coping strategies when they were discouraged or frustrated. Some women were naturally able to shrug off unfairness, and others learned to pick their fights carefully, paying attention only to those they could win in a relatively brief time commitment. Others employed a constructive sense of humor to point out lack of consideration demonstrated by colleagues.

A universal constant was that engineering had become part of the life of each woman interviewed. Each had found a way to integrate her career within a contented, well-balanced existence. The authors found a pervasive theme among women of wanting to be useful to society. Many made links between their personal ethics and their approach to their work.

Albert Bandura's model of a person's approach toward and attachment to a field of endeavor was presented. Bandura and several other researchers have noted that for women [or other traditionally under-represented groups] to perceive themselves as successful in their careers, talent and training are not enough; they must also feel that their profession is of service to society. The model proposes that efficacy information relevant to a career comes from four factors: performance and accomplishments, observing and learning from others, freedom from anxiety with respect to work and conduct in field, and persuasion and support from others.

Though institutions of higher learning have recognized the importance of these factors, many have missed Bandura's point that the requirements are not independent. Too often, said Ambrose, Lazarus, and Nair, one of these factors is unintentionally omitted by an institution that then finds no significant change in minority engagement in the field, drawing the conclusion that the intervention program is of no help.

The self-efficacy model advances the possibility that all four aspects of influence are equally important. Moreover, if engineering associations expand their public relations programs while universities continue their intervention initiatives, the up-ward climb will become less and less steep for women and minorities in engineering and related fields. Personnel profiles in the industry will reflect the changing workforce demographics of the coming century.

By Wendy J. Woodbury Straight, Professional Land Surveyor,
12 East Fifth Street, Dunkirk, NY 14048, USA, e-mail:

Editor: Chair of the Task Force on Under-represented Groups in Surveying
Ms. Gabriele Dasse, Kleinfeld 22a, D-21149 Hamburg, Germany
fax: + 49 40 2375 5965, tel.: + 49 40 2375 5250,
web site:

3/99, month of issue: September

© Copyright 1999 Gabriele Dasse.
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