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07/03/2017

IWD: The chief executive

Words: The Planner

Gerry Hughes, chief executive of real estate advisor GVA, has been vocal in his support for more women in leadership roles in the planning workplace. We asked him why, and whether his firm is putting in place the policies to make sure it happens.

Why do diversity and equality in the planning workplace matter (if, indeed, they do)?

Gerry Hughes (GH): "Diverse, inclusive and equal workplaces don’t just matter; they are intrinsic to fully functioning, successful businesses and society as a whole. Without it, a business limits its ability to achieve its full potential.

"Studies have shown that greater diversity within the workplace can have much broader benefits than previously thought – such as enhancing creativity and problem-solving skills. Creating an environment in which people feel welcome and empowered naturally strengthens quality and performance, and is something I feel truly passionate about."

How can planning - and society more broadly - benefit from greater gender, cultural and ethnic diversity?

GH: "Quite simply, how can we plan for and create successful spaces that benefit the whole of society, if we are only representing a small segment of society? A diverse, inclusive workplace truly reflects our multi-ethnic and diverse society, and will bring a variety of perspectives and ideas."

"The planning, and real estate sector in general, is behind the curve when compared to other sectors"

How well is planning performing on this at the moment? Is there room for improvement?

GH: "The planning, and real estate sector in general, is behind the curve when compared to other sectors. There are many historic reasons for this, but, as we are talking here about changing places and landscapes in a variety of different communities, it is common sense that the sector needs to be able to reflect the broad cross-section of society in which it operates. This will make it more effective and accepted by the communities in which we work and strive to improve…"

What is GVA doing to promote diversity/equality within the business?

GH: "As I mentioned earlier, creating an inclusive workplace is something I am passionate about, which is why I have made it one of my top priorities since becoming chief executive of GVA. I am very proud that we are leading the way in the real estate sector in this area. We have already committed to a number of initiatives, including the RICS Diversity and Inclusion Charter and are a founding member of the Changing Face of Property group. We were also one of the first signatories of the London-wide Speaker Diversity Pledge, supported by the Mayor of London, which calls upon signatories to host more mixed events, put forward speakers from under-represented groups, and speak up when invited to single-demographic panels.

"Creating an inclusive workplace is something I am passionate about, which is why I have made it one of my top priorities since becoming chief executive of GVA"

"Internally at GVA, we are actively putting inclusion at the very forefront of our business. As well as providing training for our teams on areas such as unconscious bias and running internal workshops with an expert on the area of inclusion, some other things we are doing include:

  • Embedding inclusion in our recruitment and HR practices
  • Including the subject area into our staff induction procedures
  • Implementing a number of mentoring programmes that acknowledge and look to readdress the issues
  • Revisiting our flexible working arrangements to adapt them fully to the needs of all and have introduced the technology to allow this to happen
  • Introducing parental support coaching and addressing our maternity/paternity care arrangements to make them as flexible as possible
  • Creation of a number of internal working groups focusing on gender, disability and religion
  • Implementing an internal communication programme that highlights and explains the key religious events and festivals throughout the year."

Photo | Peter Searle

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