• Women in Planning

Hearing from the all-female finalists for the RTPI London Young Planner of the Year.

Updated: Nov 30, 2021

This year is a momentous one; boasting an all-female final for the RTPI London Young Planning of the Year - a powerful recognition of women’s contribution to the Built Environment. To celebrate, all three finalists, Hannah Fawdon, Hannah Northrop and Sara Sweeney, have shared their journey, reflecting on their achievements to date.

 

Hannah Fawdon

Senior Planner at Hybrid


Following completion of my undergraduate degree in geography, I started to think about what kind of career interested me. After researching different types of environmental and sustainability Masters, I came across Urban and Regional Planning at Heriot Watt which really caught my eye.


The fact that the role of planners is so hugely varied and diverse was a real positive, especially as it incorporates spatial awareness and many environmental considerations as part of the day-to-day job; skills I could draw upon from my degree. The fact that the planning/construction sector is quite heavily male-dominated wasn’t something that crossed my mind but having now worked in the industry for 5 years, I’ve realised how important it is to increase awareness amongst young women. Organisations like Women in Planning do this so well by championing gender equality, especially at senior positions.


From day one, I’ve never looked back, and I was lucky enough to work for EDF Energy on their national infrastructure projects as my first job as a planner. After gaining invaluable experience and learning from my colleagues at EDF, including some inspiring female planners, I decided to give planning consultancy a try and found that working with developers was fast paced and very rewarding! During my time at Iceni Projects, I was supported by many colleagues, including my female line manager, which I found to be incredibly useful learning from her invaluable experience.

I started at Hybrid just over a year ago, and my directors Danielle and Claire have supported me from the very first day. This is especially true as they were the ones to nominate me for Young Planner of the Year, something that was completely unexpected. It’s given me such a huge boost and has highlighted that even though I view my work as “just doing my job”, it’s actually something my managers see as particularly outstanding, especially their comments about the value of my contributions across the business. This has given me so much confidence and to have been shortlisted alongside two very well accomplished female planners is a huge achievement and I hope it will inspire other young women to start a career in planning.

 

Hannah Northrop

Lecturer in Planning at London South Bank University


I started working in town planning in 2015 and the following 6 years have been a whirlwind of new experiences, continuous professional development and a hint of imposter syndrome.

Within this time I completed my masters, worked for both public and private sectors, and now I am pinching myself as I work as a lecturer in town planning at LSBU.


Education for many of us is a starting point into the field of town planning and forms a key crux in understanding the field's multiple facets as well as developing specialisms. I am extremely passionate about planning and come from an environmental science background; being able to marry these interests and help educate and bring more students into planning was a huge incentive for me to enter the education field.


A huge development within planning education has been the town planning apprenticeship which allows students to combine academia with real life applications. The students we have at LSBU are truly exceptional and there is a hunger for making changes in the world with students recently developing interests in social justice, pushing for sustainable development and making inclusive spaces. I teach on a range of modules including Environmental issues and impacts which respond to some of these interests.


Whilst it may feel like we are “just doing our jobs” the work we do has a real impact; as planners we see changes in the built environment and I see it in when students leave my lectures having understood a new concept. The RTPI award was highlighted to me by peers and although I had that voice “Oh nothing will probably come from it”, I carried on. I am still surprised to be shortlisted but it is a real pleasure to be surrounded by other remarkable women especially as I have been supported throughout my career by amazing women such as my own master’s lecturer, my previous line managers and friends.

 

Sara Sweeney

Senior Planning and Development Manager at Kitewood


On the cusp of 10 years’ experience in the planning profession, my final year as a ‘young planner’ and the year that I am the Chair of the Women in Planning network in London, the RTPI London Excellence Awards was a great opportunity to reflect upon the foundation of my career.


I have been a chartered member of the RTPI since December 2014 and I have predominantly worked on the client side; for a national housebuilder and a London based property developer for the last six years. I am passionate about promoting our profession within the wider construction/ development sector and to the Communities in which we work and shape. Promoting diversity and inclusion is equally important to me and one of the reasons that I joined the Women in Planning network as a Committee member when it was first founded in London. As a (reasonably) young female who works in a predominantly male dominated environment, ‘the old boys club’, gender and age equality are matters that are close to my heart. I am hyper aware to the need for more visibility for all women in senior roles to encourage more women to step into the limelight, accept their accomplishments, become more self-promoting, put themselves forward for more and greater opportunities and believe they are deserving of accolade.


The Women in Planning network was founded by Charlotte Morphet and Alison McKay in 2012 to champion gender equality in the Planning Industry. Charlotte has always been incredibly supportive in both a personal and professional capacity and she encouraged me to apply to the RTPI Excellence Awards when they were announced earlier in the year. As I wrestled with the overwhelming feelings of self-doubt, I was reminded that along with being an advocate for other women, I am a young woman in a senior middle management role, I will be Chairing the Women in Planning London branch for another year and therefore however uncomfortable it felt, I must do it, because having confidence in ourselves and our accomplishments is our superpower.


So, for me to be shortlisted for the ‘Young Planner’ award with two women by my side is an award in itself; the antidote to imposter syndrome; and a triumph for the visibility of women in our profession.

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