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08/03/2018

IWD: We need to be our own best champion

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Women in planning need to shout about their accomplishments and think about how they can inspire the next generation of planners, says Kim Cooper

We seem to have resolved the gender inequalities within town planning: women now make up 49 per cent of entrants to the profession.

But look closer and there are still problems with female retention and the promotion of women to positions of leadership. The result is a lack of high profile senior women to whom our younger planners can look to for inspiration. Initiatives like the Northern Power Women Awards — where I was fortunate enough to be included on their ‘Top 50 Future List’ earlier this week—provide a platform to promote the outstanding work of women in their fields.

We need awards like this, days such as International Women’s Day and groups like Women in Planning, to champion the work of women beyond daily peer-to-peer interactions. The importance of self-championing, using the networks and opportunities around us to springboard our careers, should not be understated.  

Men are notoriously better at publicising the work they do – good or bad; women tend to shy away from self-advertisement. Yet if we don’t advocate for ourselves, who will?

"Our pathway, our achievements and our passion could inspire someone to become the next Jane Jacobs"

Shifting the focus away from our personal accomplishments, towards the actual benefits of our work to our organisation and communities, may be more effective. We must always keep in mind the power of our visibility to more junior women forging their own careers.

Our pathway, our achievements and our passion could inspire someone to become the next Jane Jacobs. We need to be our own best champion. We need to champion the women around us. We need men to support us in our goals. Gender equality is a complex issue. Simply championing what we do won’t alone create an equal and fair profession. But it’s an important step forward.

Kim Cooper MRTPI is a town planner with Arup, junior vice chair of RTPI North West RTPI and sits on the RTPI General Assembly. She chaired the organising committee for the 2017 Young Planners' Conference in Manchester

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