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IWD: There's progress, but planning remains an uneven playing field

Monica Lennon
If we want to create truly inclusive places, we need to address inequalities within the profession itself, says Monica Lennon MSP.

As a feminist and proud planner, I’m delighted our profession continues to embrace and celebrate International Women’s Day. Having a diverse planning workforce is vital to creating places that work for everyone and in Trudi Elliott the RTPI has a chief executive who champions the case for an inclusive profession where no talent is excluded.

Planners work within a multidisciplinary environment where it’s vital to have the right mix of skills and experience around the table. But just as nobody believes a room full of identikit politicians is a good thing, the same applies to planning.

As a thirty-something, working-class woman, I’m proud to be the only chartered town planner in the Scottish Parliament, bringing tons of lived experience alongside my professional expertise. And in the face of austerity budgets that have seen the planning workforce in Scotland decline by 20 per cent, planning desperately needs a champion.

“Just as nobody believes a room full of identikit politicians is a good thing, the same applies to planning”

To mark International Women’s Day, I’m hosting the Scottish Young Planners Network in Holyrood to celebrate the contribution that women make to planning and the built environment. We should continue to celebrate excellence and our role models like Young Planner of the Year Emma Lancaster, as we cannot be what we cannot see.

Progress is being made towards achieving more diversity in planning with more women occupying leadership roles and making an impact. But our profession isn’t a level playing field, and with a 26 per cent pay gap between men and women*, it’s an extremely uneven one. If we want to pride ourselves on making fantastic places and prove the relevance and importance of planning it’s in our collective interests to address this.

It’s a great strength of the RTPI that members work collaboratively. It’s by working together that we can close the pay gap and attract and retain the best talent. In the face of rising inequality and economic and political uncertainty, I’m convinced the world needs planning more than ever. It’s over to us to be part of the solution rather than part of the problem.

* Data for the role of ‘Town planning officer’, Office for National Statistics gender pay gap data extracted from the 2016 Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings

Monica Lennon MSP has been a Labour Party member of the Scottish Parliament for Central Scotland since 2016. She is also a chartered town planner and RTPI member with experience of both public and private sectors.


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