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IWD: Why should we make an effort to get more women on panels at events?

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Are diversity pledges an effective means of increasing women's representation on panels at events, or a well-meaning but patronising attempt to deal with a complex issue?

When The Planner's deputy editor found himself embroiled in a LinkedIn discussion about diversity pledges as a means of increasing women's representation on panels, he realised that not everyone thinks they're a good idea – and that some of the arguments for and against are quite nuanced. Anna Sabine-Newlyn has already countered some of the objections, but we're keen to have a discussion about this (and forms of 'positive discrimination' more generally).  So we're opening the floor to debate. 

Mark Bradbury: "If it takes more representation at high profile events to change perception and promote positive role models that can only be a good thing"

The campaign for greater diversity and in particular greater female representation on speaker panels at (and indeed attending) property events has attracted much attention across social media in the run up to both International Women's Day and MIPIM.

In an industry where, according to some, female representation is as low as 15 per cent, what would appropriate representation on speaker panels look like?

Setting aside the fact that in some sectors of the industry representation is significantly higher, I am of the view that there is an element of chicken and egg here. Whatever the actual figures, our industry is far from being as diverse as it should be and whilst we shouldn’t all be tarred with the Presidents Club brush, it is sadly all too often misogynistic (and worse).

Both the perception and the reality are undoubtedly deterring talented people from our industry and limiting our perspective and that can only be to all of our detriment, whether we work in the industry or live or work in the buildings and places we create.

If it takes more representation at high profile events, on speaker panels and in the media to help to change that perception and promote positive role models to inspire others, that in my view can only be a good thing. Who knows, over time it might also change the reality; one thing is for sure if we don’t, it won’t.

No one wants tokenism or quotas as that that will only add fuel to chauvinist fires, but from my experience as a regular speaker, any event organiser who cannot find at least one highly experienced and engaging woman to add value to any debate or discussion simply isn’t trying very hard.

Mark Bradbury is associate director, capital assets at Southampton City Council

What do you think?

What do you think about moves to get more women on speaker panels at events? We'd love to include you thoughts and commments here. Email your thoughts to The Planner's deputy editor Simon Wicks at simon.wicks@theplanner.co.uk – and we'll include them here (subject to tweaks and edits for brevity and sense – and, of course, we reserve the right not to publish anything offensive)