Although land surveying is inarguably a heavily male-dominated profession, the industry today is continually evolving and making constructive advances towards becoming more inclusive of females. In recent years, there has been a steady increase in the number of women who are choosing to pursue an education and career path in the field of surveying. With the current shortage of trained and qualified surveyors around the world, this is likely to be advantageous for the industry as a whole. At Guida, we are pleased and enthusiastic about this positive trend and the future of women in surveying and would like to take a moment to reflect on some of the many dedicated women, both past and present, who have boldly paved the way for future generations of female surveyors.

The First Female Land Surveyors

The journey for female surveyors began in the mid-1800s when Alice Fletcher, a pioneer anthropologist, ethnologist, and social scientist became the first known American land surveyor. Also referred to as the “Measuring Woman”, Alice dedicated a significant portion of her career to studying and learning from the Native Americans. Upon learning of the Omahas’ fear of being banished to designated Indian Territory, she fought for their right to legal titles of their own farms as the white settlers had received. By 1884, she had allotted 75,931 acres in 954 allotments to 1,194 Omaha people, establishing herself in the history books as the first American female surveyor opening the doors for women to pursue a career in the land surveying profession.

All Female Survey Crew, Minidoka Project, Idaho, 1918, U.S. Department of the Interior.

Photo credit:
All Female Survey Crew, Minidoka Project, Idaho, 1918, U.S. Department of the Interior.

Many years later, in 1922, Irene Barclay became the next woman to make a significant mark within the surveying industry. Shortly after the Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act of 1919 was passed in Europe, which protected women from discrimination, allowing them to pursue higher education and to enter previously banned professions, Irene, became the first woman in the UK to qualify as a certified surveyor. Throughout her 50-year career she worked tirelessly to improve poor housing conditions across London. Her passion was helping to raise awareness of the poor living conditions that those who are impoverished often face. She played a pivotal role in helping to implement revolutionary improvements that have helped to enhance living conditions across the UK. At the time of her retirement, Irene had assisted in the construction of over 800 homes, as well as the building of schools, recreational centers, and commercial properties. Her audacious career and uncompromising fight for the less fortunate serve as a reminder of the positive impact women can make in the world, through a career in land surveying.

The Women of Guida Share Their Experience & Advice

In the spirit of Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day, Guida would like to take a moment to acknowledge and thank the women who have contributed to the land surveying industry as well as some of our own trailblazers. Through their own careers as women in surveying, these team members have played a pivotal role in making shifts within the industry possible and we hope their experiences and advice will inspire future generations to do the same.

Lisa Spivak, PLS
Vice President, Technology Manager | Orange County

Math was always a favorite subject of mine. During high school I was strongly encouraged to look at a career in engineering. So, I decided to pursue a career in Civil Engineering. My dad, who is also a surveyor, was not excited about having a daughter be an engineer. He introduced me to a female surveyor and recent graduate of California State University Fresno’s Surveying Engineering program that his company had just hired. His hopes were that she would convince me to try out the Cal State Fresno Surveying program. It sounded interesting so I gave it a go and decided this was a perfect fit for me and my love of math.

Nicole Zbyczik
Party Chief | Bay Area

There are a lot of really cool things about working in the field. It’s nice to get to see different places that a lot of people don’t get to see, and not have to work inside a building all day. The best part though, in my opinion, is working on a big project that you can drive past years later and say that you got to work on it. For example, when my daughter is a little older, I can take her to see the Bay Bridge and tell her that I worked on it.

Lori Sullivan
Survey Analyst | Inland Empire

In my 20-year career in the engineering and surveying industry, I have seen how male dominated the field is. However, I have also seen an increase of women who are very successful surveyors. Just as much as succeeding in any other career, I have found that the key in this profession is not only about demonstrating confidence and proficiency, but also being objective and open-minded. This is a career that women can thrive in and bring a fresh dynamic and intelligence to.

Ashley Aguirre
Survey Technician | Central Valley

My experience was a positive one studying surveying in college because professors liked seeing the industry gain more women in this field. The advice I would give to future students is no matter how hard everything seems at the time it will all make sense at the end of your studies and you will be glad you pushed through all the difficult moments for your degree of choice.

Guida takes great pride in all of the hardworking, talented, and successful women that work at the firm and we would like to thank each one of you for your dedication and contributions to our success. Without you, the industry, and our family, would not be as accomplished as they are today.