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02/03/2018

Diversity? It's good business sense and good planning

Diversity

Planning must reflect the diversity of the communities it plans for, argues Rob Krzyszowski

Diversity in planning and business isn’t an optional add-on; it’s fundamental to both being a success. Good business surely depends on a diverse and constant flow of ideas and perspectives. If we stick to the same old way of doing things, we’re not challenging ourselves and not spotting opportunities for growth and innovation.

Research published in January by McKinsey & Company global management consultants showed that firms in the top quartiles for gender diversity and for ethnic diversity are, respectively, 21 per cent and 33 per cent more likely to have higher profits than those in the bottom quartiles.

We shouldn’t want people to just ‘fit in’; we should look for how people can add value. Will your potential  new customer, client or employee take your organisation seriously if you do not reflect them or the wider public?

"We talk of hard-to-reach communities, but would they be hard to reach if we were reflective of them?"

If we are to plan, as in our RTPI Code of Conduct, “for the benefit of the public”, then we must recognise that the public is diverse. As a profession we must reflect that. Will the communities that we plan for (or should it be ‘with’?) take us seriously if we do not reflect them? We talk of ‘hard-to-reach’ communities, but would they be hard to reach if we were reflective of them?

It goes without saying that there is a professional, legal and moral obligation, too. Our code says we must not discriminate on grounds including but not limited to race, nationality, gender, sexual orientation, religion, disability or age. We must also seek to eliminate discrimination by others and promote equality of opportunity throughout our professional activities – so we should have the professional courage to challenge this where we see it. We all know about the Equality Act 2010, too.

Observing our professional codes, legal obligations and organisational policies should be commended, but this is just the start. We can have all the policies in the world but it doesn’t make any difference unless we each actually do something. There needs to be strong leadership and role models who visibly champion diversity to push through the changes we need.

That’s why the Construction Industry Council, of which the RTPI is a member, produced a Blueprint for Change in 2015. It sets out baseline data on diversity for the industry and provides case studies of leadership and role models. It’s worth a read if you’re thinking of enhancing the success of your organisation. It’s useful not just in our role as planners but as employers, too. After all, diversity in planning doesn’t need to just be about the diversity of shopping frontages.

Rob Krzyszowski is spatial planning manager for the London Borough of Brent and the RTPI's representative on the Construction Industry Council Diversity Panel

Image | iStock

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