Land Surveying: A Girl’s Dream Can Come True

by | February 27, 2024

My sister, friend and me sitting on a fort we built from an old snake rail fence.

My sister, friend and me sitting on a fort we built from an old snake rail fence.

Some little girls in my time probably dreamed of being a teacher, an actress or a singer, but not little old me. I had my sights on something better. Something that matched my love of building things, working with numbers, being outside and solving puzzles.

When I think back on my childhood and how I went from there to here, now owning my own surveying company, I recall a time where our neighbour decided to put up a rail fence around their yard. It looked lovely, but my mom was furious. Why was she so furious? It may have had something to do with the fact that our neighbour had mistakenly taken over a significant chunk of our property, including a large number of our trees. Needless to say, my mom called in the local land surveyor to officially mark-up our property lines and claim our trees back.

That was my earliest exposure to land surveying, but it stuck with me, watching him do his magic, setting stakes on our boundary, and solving my mom’s problem.

Our property lines in green showing the disputed lines in red

Our property lines in green showing the disputed lines in red

Beyond that early fascination in surveying, I also had a dream as a teenager to one day run my own business. I was fortunate to be a natural in math, science and geography and loved the outdoors. For those of you who recall those aptitude tests in high school, the ones given by the guidance counsellor, mine listed Land Surveyor as my number one match. It was kismet! I soon found myself taking Survey Engineering at Toronto Metropolitan University (formerly Ryerson University). Along the way to becoming a licensed Ontario Land Surveyor I also met my future mentor, Nancy Grozelle.

Women in Land Surveying

Sadly, as I look around, there are not nearly enough fellow female land surveyors alongside me in this field of work. As reported by the Association of Ontario Land Surveyors (AOLS), of which I am a member, only seven percent of AOLS members are female. When you’re in a room like that you can’t help but take notice.

As I started digging into this more I learned that the ratio of men to women for all occupations in Ontario is 52% men to 48% women, yet for Land Surveyors in Ontario the ratio is 93% men to 7% women – that’s insane!

I came across another statistic from Engineers Canada that said women make up more than half of the Canadian population, but don’t even come close to that representation in the engineering field. Apparently, we are seeing more and more women enrolling in engineering programs, reaching just over 24% in 2020, but we’re still greatly outnumbered.

So why is this the case? I can only speculate but here are a few of my theories:

  • Maybe we women were raised in an environment that didn’t encourage our love of math and science; or if it was encouraged, your career path was steered to be to a teacher
  • Maybe we assume we can’t do the job because there is a physical aspect to it, requiring some strength, like pounding in iron bars
  • Maybe we were discouraged from pursuing land surveying because we visibly didn’t see other women working in the field
  • Or maybe we were intimidated to work in a field where we could find ourselves on a construction site. A place we have avoided because it’s always portrayed as a toxic environment for women in the movies. A place of harassment, whistles and cat-calls

I know, a lot of maybes … but if any of these reasons are true, how can we overcome them?

Luckily, more and more programs, research and outreach is being done to encourage young girls to embrace STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math), and break the gender barriers and stereotypes imposed early on in development.

Engineers Canada has also prioritized recruitment of women in the engineering field as part of their 30 by 30 Initiative, targeting 30 percent of newly licensed engineers to be women by 2030. As we begin to see more women in the field, I truly believe the wave of female engineers will continue to grow.

We as women need to mentor one another. Over the years I have proudly mentored many young female surveyors like Lauren Dawe, who began her career with me as a summer student in 2012 and received her commission as an OLS in 2019.

I think most importantly we all need to spread the word! Find ways to promote each other, feature each other, toot each other’s horns so other women can find us, see us doing what we love, and be inspired by us. We need more women like Lauren Holland from the UK aka @geospatial_lauren helping to break these barriers publicly.

Why become a Land Surveyor?

If you’re reading this wondering if this is the right career for you, ask yourself:

  • Do you like working in a variety of locations, i.e. not always at a desk?
  • Do you like working outdoors?
  • Do you have a talent for math?
  • Do you like to solve problems?
  • Do you like a mix of working alone and with other people?
  • Do you like learning new technology?
  • Do you want a career where there is less of a pay gap between genders than most other fields?

If you answered yes to these questions, you should now ask yourself “why am I not a land surveyor already?” If you still need another reason to consider land surveying think about this: according to AOLS, there is a global deficit of land surveyors, which means one important thing – you’re basically guaranteed a job!

Yes, there is a lot of work involved to becoming a licensed Ontario Land Surveyor, but it’s easier than it appears. Much of what you need to know is learned in the field and through articling.

Speaking from experience, as a female entrepreneur running Rouse Surveyors, it’s an incredibly rewarding career that I am proud of and I would gladly mentor more young women to help ignite their interest in land surveying and raise the numbers of females in our field.

About the Author

Tracy Rouse

Tracy Rouse

Tracy’s leadership qualities, entrepreneurial desire and positive outlook lead to her opening Rouse Surveyors Inc. in 2010. She has built her business on the pillars of excellence, dependability and responsiveness. These qualities are reflected in her work and in the people she hires.

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Specializing in urban redevelopment, commercial land development, construction, heavy civil and infrastructure projects across Ontario.

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1 Comment

  1. Nancy Grozelle, OLS, Ret.

    Hi Tracy,

    I just read your article and you are truly a great leader and I know how well respected your are in the industry. I hope you will be speaking at the Women’s Day event!

    Thanks for the mentorship nod! Helping all surveyors to learn and succeed was my favourite thing!


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