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28/02/2019

The Tardis and our diverse world

Tardis Illustration

The emergence of a Ms Doctor Who is a signal that 'diversity is the new sustainability in terms of how we should all be living', says Louise Brooke-Smith

Like our parents before us, we can cite enormous changes in the way we live now compared with our childhoods; changes in how we treat each other, what we eat, how we are educated, how and where we live, shop, or enjoy our spare time.

From my mum’s mantra of “I never saw a banana until after the war” to my daughter not knowing what a record player is, times change and technology moves forward. I’m sure our grandchildren will be amazed to learn that we used to gather around a single black-and-white TV to watch a white-haired doctor with two hearts saved the universe every Saturday night.

The past 50-odd years have seen conflicts and political upheavals but also a change in social culture that has seen the generic role of women move from homemakers to bra-burning feminists and then a steady, albeit slow, change to equality in almost all aspects of life, career choices, pay and status. Some communities see that equality helped along by quotas; others prefer a more osmotic approach.

Of course there are the exceptions but generally the move to a fair and equitable role for men and women is universally accepted and anything to the contrary tends to be shouted about and ridiculed. And so it should be.

Whether you are bored by it or not, diversity is the new sustainability in terms of how we should all be living. Anything less is just #NotAcceptable. But exceptions do occur because we are human and cultural changes are very hard to successfully impose. A change in attitude and personal reaction takes years and sometimes generations.

I have been one for keeping my matches in my pocket and simply getting on with the job in hand but sometimes that job presents an opportunity to shine a light on stereotypes.

I was late to a business function once and crept into the back of a packed room at an international cricket stadium. I turned to a waiter – black trousers and white shirt – and asked for an orange juice, which he duly brought to me. Polite conversation ensued of “Was I there with my boss?” and “Did the waiter work long hours?”

Half an hour later when we were both on the stage, I realised he was Jonathan Trott, of international cricket fame, and he realised I was President of my Institution. We never let on that we were both embarrassed by our stereotyping of each other.

“The only senior international job not currently available to a woman is being the pope – and even that could change”

Like many property students in the early 1980s, I was one of very few women on my Sheffield Poly course. I recall writing an essay about a fictional development company. Mine was called ‘Brooke-Smith and Daughters’ – and I got extra marks for having a ‘vivid imagination’. But culture and attitudes to diversity have since changed. Companies recognise it, business cases endorse it and legislation enforces it and the only senior international job not currently available to a woman is being the Pope – and even that could change. The question is how long is the wait.

I am proud that planning is the epitome of being fair, providing equal access and equal opportunity to everyone in a community be it men or women, gays, straights and everyone in between, black or white, liberals or extremists. That’s what inclusion is all about, making space for everyone.

So yes, today we have a Ms Doctor Who and potentially when a ‘Bond, Jane Bond’ hits our iPads, she will be measured by her exploits and abilities, not the size of her boobs or whether she can cook. To me, that’s progress.

Dr Louise Brooke-Smith is a partner at Arcadis LLP and UK Head of Development and Strategy Planning

Image credit | Zara Picken

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