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07/03/2019

How filling the data gap could help to fill the gender gap

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There is still a long way to go to get more women into leadership roles in planning, argues Charlotte Morphet

In 2017, the RTPI conducted a membership survey. Two of its findings have stuck with me: first, that “women were more likely than men to indicate that they had experienced many of the barriers to professional advancement”; second, 386 RTPI members said that gender had acted as a barrier to their professional advancement.

It’s something I had suspected from speaking to Women in Planning members. But when asked about diversity in planning for The Planner magazine last March, I was unable to provide concrete data to answer questions about the number of women in leadership roles and the issues that women are facing in planning and the wider built environment sector.

As co-founder of Women in Planning, I found myself dissatisfied and slightly annoyed. As a planner leading on the commissioning of evidence to underpin a local plan, this lack of insight didn’t sit well with me. So Women in Planning has begun researching the questions that I couldn’t answer.

Our research has three components. First, we set out to understand how many women are in leadership roles in private sector planning consultancy. Second, we will be doing the same research but looking at local authorities. And we are setting up an annual Women in Planning membership survey to ask women in the profession and the wider sector what challenges they face.

"As a planner leading on the commissioning of evidence to underpin a local plan, this lack of insight didn't sit well with me"

The aim is to ensure that our network provides the support that will empower women working in planning. It’s also so that we, as planners, can have a proper discussion about diversity, inclusion and equality issues.

So who is leading planning?

In a survey of 379 planning consultancies websites across the UK, we found a combined total of 1,016 chief executives, managing directors, senior directors and directors working in planning roles. Just 17 per cent of them were women.

When looking at just the top tier (CEOs, MDs, senior directors) there were 13 per cent women and 87 per cent men. At director level only, 19 per cent were women and 81 per cent were men.

Men still predominate in this area of planning so there is a lot to do to ensure more women reach leadership level. I am interested to see the results for local authorities. Then we will start to have a clearer picture of how many women are in leadership roles across planning as a whole. Later this year, we’ll launch our annual membership survey to find out more about women’s experiences in planning.

The outcome from all this work will be an informed discussion about what positive actions we can all take for the benefit of the profession and wider sector.

Charlotte Morphet is co-founder of Women in Planning

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