Gender Balance - Deeds Not Words
7 March 2019
Women in Planning North West celebrated International Women's Day 2019 with an event 'Gender Balance - Deeds Not Words'. Read committee member, Stephanie Hall, thoughts below.
“Wonderful, thought provoking, inspiring, emotive and powerful” – just a snapshot of the amazing feedback received following the first event of 2019 for the North West branch, hosted by Shoosmiths at their impressive Manchester offices. Celebrating International Women’s Day, the event aimed to promote an understanding of the strategies that can be put in place to actively support women to fulfil their potential in the workplace.
Sarah Reid, Barrister at Kings Chambers, set the tone for the evening with some eyebrow-raising facts about equality and diversity in the industry – who knew that women were only allowed to wear trousers in court since 1995? On a more serious note, it is apparent that whilst women are entering the various planning professions in great numbers, they remain under-represented at senior level. Nationally, the average percentage of female directors in planning consultancies is 19%, and only 5% of Planning Silks are female.
Emery Planning were welcomed to the floor and Chair Denise Emery and Director Caroline Payne provided an insight into life at the consultancy which proudly boasts an equal gender balance throughout the business. In a recent Planning Magazine survey, Emery was identified as the only consultancy nationally with 50% of its directors being female. Flexible working is firmly embedded in the culture of the business and is open to all, regardless of circumstances. This approach has reaped success, demonstrated by employee loyalty and a strong client following.
Lisa Tye of Shoosmiths took to the stage next to explain the remarkable rise that she and her job-share partner Kathryn Jump have taken in a world where part-time and flexible working can be perceived as a barrier to success. Lisa and Kathryn have recently been appointed as joint National Head of the Planning team, responsible for 20 lawyers and a budget of £3m, and have been recognised in the Timewise Power Job Sharers Awards 2019. Lisa highlighted the responsibility that successful job sharers like her have in promoting a more flexible way of working to the industry.
The evening was rounded off by an interactive session from Catherine Brown, Professional Coach and Trainer at Skilful Conversation Limited. A qualified barrister, Cath had the room “thinking outside the box” and moderated a lively discussion on examples of best practice including task-based outcomes and the importance of well-being amongst employees. Finally, she encouraged all attendees to commit to one action to improve diversity in the workplace.
The event highlighted the role men have in championing the female cause in the workplace. Diversity is the responsibility of everyone, and flexible working should be open to all regardless of gender. One “takeaway” we can all commit to is to spread the word of the network amongst our male colleagues and contacts, and look forward to welcoming them at our events planned throughout 2019.