'It's the quality of the company structure that could make all the difference'

Published on: 12 May 2017

Oyster PartnershipInternational Women's Day which this year falls on 8th March - is always an opportunity to consider issues of inequality in any given profession, and it's chastening to find that challenging gender inequality in the planning profession is of particular importance here in 2017. After all, it's hard to deny the evidence of a gap between the sexes. Elsewhere in this edition of The Planner, Monica Lennon points to a recent Office of National Statistics report that indicates how, in broad terms, a 26 per cent pay gap between men and women exists in the planning sector. Meanwhile, Carole Anne-Davies, chief executive of the Design Commission for Wales, explains how women in planning can often be higher qualified yet less frequently promoted.

How can this be? And more importantly, what can be done? The answer to the first question is doubtless historical, and as with many professions there is perhaps little to gain from dwelling on the past. But as for action? Well, making the workplace more appealing to women would be a start. And by appealing I don't mean the quality of the workplace per se (although that's doubtless an issue for some companies). Rather, it's the quality of the company structure that could make all the difference. Perhaps this could be evidenced through, for example, the use of non-gendered incentive schemes; maternity pay rates that go beyond the statutory minimum; an environment that welcomes mothers returning to the workplace. Perhaps more planning organisations could make a public commitment to a sensible gender balance across all levels of management? Indeed, promoting awareness of such a gender balance policy, or committing to diversity pledges where they exist, could do much to change an organisation's cultural dynamic for the better. Perhaps it might also help that organisation sell its planning credentials to clients, the underlying message being that here is an organisation more likely to recognise how women and men use public space in different ways and consider that in their, and will use such awareness in advising clients.

With all of this in motion, we could then hope to see the fight for equal pay resolve itself. Chelsea