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The Role of Men in Securing Equality

Thea Osmund-Smith, Barrister No. 5 Chambers  

Women in Planning is an independent network with the aim to promote a diverse, equitable and inclusive planning industry. We believe women should feel empowered when working in the planning industry. But can that happen with the support and encouragement of men? The question is possibly more appropriately the subject of a dissertation than a short article, but in the next x hundred words, I will try and outline why the support and encouragement of men is absolutely necessary if the ambition of Women in Planning and gender quality is to be realised, and why we hope to see more men at our events next year. The need for this article arises for a number of reasons. Our events are brilliantly attended but despite some significant encouragement by the Committee, men make up only a small proportion of attendees. This appears to be due, in part at least, to some confusion over whether men are welcome, or whether it is appropriate for them to attend at all. As a Committee we want to dispel the myth that our events are “women only”. We have and will continue to welcome everyone regardless of gender. Excluding men perpetuates the very problem we’re trying to address. No industry can be diverse and equitable if it only ever includes half of society – whichever half that is. Gender inequality absolutely has to be confronted and addressed through organizations such as Women in Planning West Midlands and the events we hold, but excluding men from the audience and more importantly, the dialogue on equality, is entirely counter-productive. As explained in a brilliantly straightforward article published on The Mancunion[1] website[2] “If men are not allowed to share responsibility for the success of feminism, then the patriarchal system that we seek to change will continue to suppress women. The desire to change a society that you believe is led by men—without the support of men—is unreasonable….” To put it another way, women seeking to achieve equality without the support of men is like trying to get consent for a huge contentious development without the support of officers and Members. Those that occupy positions of power are a fundamental part of the solution, and the problem can’t be fixed unless those in power, which is overwhelmingly men, understand the problem, and seek to address it. The bottom line is that gender equality is the responsibility of all individuals, and can stimulate positive change not just for women but for men too. As recognised by the European Institute for Gender Equality: “ In reality, also men benefit from gender equality as they too face gender-specific issues such as lower life expectancy, bad health, lower education levels and rigid gender norms. It is essential that both women and men are aware of the benefits that gender equality brings to them as individuals and as members of communities and societies. It is also true that we can only succeed through the participation of both women and men.” A study published in 2015[3] found that in more gender equal societies, the chances of depression, divorce, or becoming a victim of violent death are smaller. Importantly, statistics show that in the less gender equal societies, men are much more likely to commit suicide than women are. In the UK, men are three times more likely to die by suicide than women. In the Republic of Ireland, the rate is four times higher among women than men. The economic benefits of gender equal societies are well known and incontrovertible. Accordingly, gender equality, is not just a women’s issue, or a movement that only benefits women. Quite apart from the moral imperative to eschew discrimination of any sort, gender equality is better for us all, and it is the collective responsibility of men and women in any industry and across society to address inequality wherever it arises. I’d therefore encourage both men and women to join us at one of our forthcoming events to continue the important conversations we’ve already started. We look forward to seeing you in 2020 [1] University of Manchester Students' Union's student newspaper. [2] [3] “What’s in it for Men?”: Old Question, New Data - Øystein Gullvåg Holter

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