Equality, diversity and inclusion are extremely serious issues that need to be properly addressed in the planning profession. The Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) in Great Britain has started this process by firstly looking at gender in the profession, with a study that came out in time for International Women’s Day. The study included fifty women and several men from Australia, Canada, England, Scotland, New Zealand and the United States. This is the first part of a ten year program by RTPI to make the profession more diverse and inclusive. The RTPI addresses the report by saying:
We profoundly believe that a planning profession that is more representative of women and society at large is crucial to bringing about inclusive environments that meet the needs of everyone and we hope that this report will contribute to addressing what has become a crucial and timely question.
The news in the report published in Great Britain is not good, and many of the issues raised are also evident in planning practice in Canada. The RTPI report states that more than fifty percent of women felt their promotion opportunities were limited, and many felt discriminated against upon returning to work from maternity leave.
“In 2019, research by the organisation ‘Women in Planning’ found that only 17% of director and above roles were held by women with just 5% of senior director, senior partner or managing director roles occupied by women.”
It has always seemed odd that planning has been a fairly male dominated practice, without a whole lot of women and diversity in senior positions. I have been a staunch supporter of planning events and seminars that include women on the panels. I have written about several events in Vancouver where “manels” were predominant. Our cities and places are not for men only or for men of a certain culture, and we need to include people from the other female 51 per cent of the population too, as well as embracing diversity.
It was Stephen Lewis the former United Nations ambassador who famously refused to sit on all male panels, and insisted that the way to advance diversity and equity was to ensure that conference panels champion women and different voices.
Stephen Lewis also pointed out that it is the panelist’s responsibility to ensure that they are not sitting on all male panels, and if they are, to insist on diversity. That is, after all, what the nexus of city planning and engagement is all about.
In the RTPI study women planners felt that they faced inappropriate remarks at work and that their workplace reflected male norms and behaviour. The study sets out 15 key recommendations which included pay equity for men and women, and ensuring maternity/family leave that did not mitigate career advancement.
Called the CHANGE action plan, the next phase of work will examine diversity and inclusivity definitions and strategies. As one of the study’s authors, Professor Aude Bicquelet Locke states:
“Developing the conversation around the need for diversity in the planning profession is not a ‘parochial’ exercise. Without genuine commitment to address issues around gender inequality there is a real risk that the profession will miss out on the benefits of nurturing and retaining real talents as well as the opportunity to create diverse and inclusive communities.”