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Celebrating 30 years of the Women’s Design Service

2017 marks 30 years since the formation of the Women’s Design Service. To celebrate this anniversary we have two articles below on the Women’s Design Service and the London Women and Planning Forum. We also have six copies of papers by the Women’s Design Service available below.

Women’s Design Service

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In the ferment that was the Women’s Liberation Movement in the 1970s all kinds of women’s groups and organisations sprang up:- from the 300 Group working for equal representation in Parliament to Women in Nalgo concerned that unions were not championing women’s issues to the National Abortion Campaign. Similar awakenings were happening in the area of the built environment, with women raising concerns both about women in the various professions and the way that the built environment was largely designed for white able-bodied men.

Women’s Design Service was developed out of the Technical Aid movement. In those days there were many voluntary groups in receipt of grants and many needed help with premises issues. WDS focused on helping the many women’s groups then in London, most of whom were funded by Ken Livingstone’s Greater London Council. WDS worked with all kinds of organisations, advising on planning and structural issues, drawing up plans for improvements and improving accessibility.

When Thatcher government abolished the GLC, many of those groups lost their funding and folded. However from the experience of working with women and hearing about their problems with the built environment, WDS re-invented itself as a research organisation. We investigated all kinds of issues; toilets, transport, creches, parks, housing, offices, tenant participation and running as a thread through all these topics – women’s safety from male violence. This is the period when most of WDS’s publications were produced.

In the early 1990s Women’s Design Service started to assist London Women and Planning Forum (LWPF) by organising public meetings on their behalf and publishing the Forum’s discussions as broadsheets.  Men were welcome at the events, but the policy was always to engage women speakers. Topics included race, disability, routes for women in construction, older women, art, cctv, environment and many other issues that were topical in that particular time. After every event a broadsheet was produced (in print, no internet in those days!) and some of these are still available.

In 2001 WDS was facing ever more severe funding problems, and it looked as if the organisation might have to close. At that point the LWPF was handed over to Queen Mary University of London where Alison Blunt in the Geography Dept. continued to chair the group until it lapsed a few years ago.

It was in 2002 that I came in as Director, and given the ongoing loss of grant funding to the voluntary sector started to build WDS up as more of a social enterprise, offering consultancy with our Making Safer Places project and on the Gender Equality Duty. Trustees agreed to leave LWPF with Queen Mary’s although WDS continued to be an active member. Many highly informative and productive events were organised during those years with an emphasis on bringing together academics, practitioners and users.

More information on WDS led projects, events and publications can be found here http://www.wds.org.uk/projects_current.html

Women Design Service Booklet 

Wendy Davis was a founding member of the Women Design Service and a Director from 2002 -2008

London Women and Planning Forum

Discussions on gender and planning have been on the urban agenda for a long time.

Early examples include gender specific policies of the Greater London Council (GLC) Women’s Committee, academic research on gender bias in built environment and RTPI’s planning advice note on Planning for Women. Similarly, discussions have also focussed around how planning policies and practice affect women’s lives, and how planning departments can be more representative of the population they serve.

It is important to touch upon this rich history in the WiP blogs. It is our history and it is important to remember the pioneers. This will also remind us how much progress we, the planning community, achieved (or not) on gender issues in planning over the last 30-40 years.

One group who committed time and effort to gender issues in 1990s was the London Women and Planning Forum, a network for women planners and planning students who were interested in discussing a wide range of planning issues from a gender perspective.

The group were meeting roughly four times a year to discuss women and planning issues, identify good practice and provide support and advice to women planners. The meetings often had challenging and thought-provoking presentations followed by discussions, and attracted a wide audience with people working in local authorities and academia, as well as other sectors and community organisations concerned with planning and equality issues.

The support from the Women’s Design Service (see our previous blog on WDS) played a crucial role in keeping the Forum going. In fact, the Forum probably would not have survived so long if it didn’t come under the WDS umbrella.

Meeting notes were published as Broadsheets by the WDS. The topics included designing out crime, town centres, planning education, housing and women’s position in planning departments. You have to bear in mind that the discussions and views in these Broadsheets are a reflection of the social, political and planning context more than 20 years ago. Some of the views and solutions may feel out of date or not relevant anymore. But you will also find that some of the issues and challenges discussed then are still relevant.

In 2001, LWPF came under the umbrella of Queen Mary University of London where Alison Blunt in the Geography Department continued to chair the group involving academics, practitioners and users.

We feel it is important that this history is not lost. We are where we are because of views and actions of many women before us who committed time and effort to make life better for those who experience inequality in the built environment. We leave it to you to decide how much, if any, progress has been made since the Forum put these issues on the agenda of the planning community in London and beyond over 20 years ago.

View past papers the London Women and Planning Forum –  Women as Planners – Is More Better

Author Dr Sule Nisancioglu is a member of Women in Planning –  London Branch

Further copies of the Women Design Service Papers are available below:

  1. Breaking down the barriers for Women
  2. Are Town Centres Managing?
  3. Gender issues within planning education
  4. Designing out Crime?
  5. Policy planning and development control – how can they work together to benefit women in the planning process
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event write up, Women in Planning Official

5 years of making Women visible in Planning

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On Monday evening, 4th December 2017, Women in Planning celebrated its 5th anniversary with a Christmas drinks reception, kindly sponsored by GVA and Osborne Richardson.

In her speech, our co-founder, Charlotte Morphet, reflected on the success of our last 5 years and set out the future direction of our network and where we see the role of women in planning. Charlotte reflected on the reason for setting up the network which was to make women visible in the planning world, noting that;

“Alison Mackay and I were looking for a networking forum that would work for us. We noticed at so many events most of the speakers and attendees were male, which we thought was strange because we knew there were lots of women working in planning.” 

Over the past 5 years, the network has achieved a great deal including an incredible ‘Proud of Women’ series of events which actively sought to make women working in planning at senior levels more visible and act as role models for women starting in the industry.

2017 has been an especially good year for us with the addition of two new Branches, one in South Wales, which launched in November 2017, and another launching in January 2018 in the North West of England.

Over the next 5 years, Women in Planning will be focusing on:

  • further growth across the UK with additional branches;
  • growing and diversify our membership base making sure it represents all women working in planning and development, at every level of their career;
  • creating a network which will empower and support our leading women so that the days of an all-male expert panel or leadership board are behind us;
  • creating a forum that provides for our members to make meaningful social and business connections and encourage them to share and support each other’s ambitions;
  • influence positive change in the workplace through targeted research, information sharing and membership surveys. We realise that greater efforts need to be made to strive for equality in the workplace, especially in terms of both pay and promotion. This starts with a better understanding of the industry baseline and what our members feel are the issues.

We thank you for being a part of our journey, whenever you may have joined and look forward to seeing you at our events in 2018. From all of us on the committee, thank you for your continued support. Seasons greetings.

Events, networking

Women in Planning South Wales launch event in Cardiff – 22 November

On the 22 November, Women in Planning South Wales will hold its first event in Cardiff where former Welsh Government Planning Minister, Sue Essex, will open the evening.

Tickets are available via: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/women-in-planning-south-wales-launch-event-tickets-38739914126 

The event has been reported in the local press by alt.Cardiff:  http://www.jomec.co.uk/altcardiff/business/business-event-for-women-in-cardiff

Thank you to our sponsors Knight Frank, Kier Living and Waterloo Tea.
We look forward to seeing many of you there!

For any queries about the event please contact: womeninplanningsouthwales@gmail.com 

Article, networking, North West committee

The Value of Networking: A Student’s Perspective

A seasoned networker will know all about the do’s and don’ts of events, but ask a student on the cusp of entering the big bad world of the graduate job market and you’ll most likely be met with a blank stare while their head whirs with the realisation they’ll need to learn, and learn quickly. An increasingly competitive career market calls for a more robust skills base, which extends beyond the top-of-the-league-table degree. University can often feel like a bubble, where students are shielded from the real world with the reassurance of ‘get a good degree, and you’ll make it’. I hate to be the person to tell these students that, unfortunately, this isn’t the case. Yes, you can write a 1st class essay on the implementation of green infrastructure in urban design, and your knowledge of rural diversification is very impressive, but how firm is your handshake?

I learnt early on in my university experience that soft-skills matter. The simple ability to look a person in the eye makes the difference in selling yourself as the kind of person they want on their team. However, most students will tell you their course includes little to do with networking and associations; in many cases students learn about networking post-graduation. But surely these are skills we should be developing from the out-set and throughout? Wouldn’t it be good to enter the business arena with the basic skills of interaction? The answer is yes, yes it would. Developing these skills helps us make those all-important connections in the industry, enabling that foot-in-the-door or a step-up-the-ladder. We’ve all heard ‘it’s about who you know’, and that is why I got involved with Women in Planning. If it’s about who-you-know, I decided to get to know people.

 As a student, it can be very daunting to enter a room with experienced professionals, however if joining the North-West Committee of Women in Planning has taught me anything, it is that these professionals want to encourage and support those entering the industry, as well as those already established. I have made connections with people from all sectors, offering advice but also interested in listening and learning from others. Women in Planning provides an inclusive environment to meet and develop connections, with women from all stages of life and positions welcome to get involved. It is this inclusive environment which sets Women in Planning apart. We strive to encourage those on the path of career development, supporting their journey through the glass ceiling, and we support those with other priorities in life who want to remain connected to the industry. Supporting women of all career stages has developed a diverse pool of experience, providing opportunities to make lasting connections. As a woman just starting out in a career, experiencing this approachable atmosphere has been very reassuring as it is clear that support extends to women of all stages, positions, and ambitions.

Introducing women to the world of networking at an early stage in their career breaks down the perception of networking as a daunting challenge, and demonstrates that networking is in fact an enjoyable and social affair, providing the opportunity to meet like-minded people. We all know networking enables us to expand our knowledge and develop ideas, but experience in networking also helps us recognise opportunities. An offer of a placement, a request for a product or service, and employment openings may appear as passing comments in conversation, and it is these fleeting opportunities which we must learn to seize to take full advantage of the benefits of networking. Developing a confident and sustained presence in the business community is vital in building connections, and the sooner we start establishing our presence the better.

Women in Planning North West will be holding a launch event and details will be released soon. Please get in touch with us for details at womeninplanningnorthwest@gmail.com

K Airey

Kimberley Airey

Student of Environment & Planning

University of Liverpool

North West Committee Member of Women in Planning

LinkedIn: Kimberley Airey

 

event write up

Thank you for joining Women in Planning and CBRE Planning at our Summer Social Event – 13 July

Thank you to everyone who came along to our Summer Social event on the 13 July at CBRE’s beautiful roof top terrace overlooking St. Paul’s. We are very pleased that so many of you made it and of course a big thank you to CBRE for hosting and sponsoring the event.

The event was introduced by Mary Fortune, our Chair of the London Committee.

Alison Tero, a Senior Director in the Planning team, then gave us an introduction to the CBRE’s Women’s Network which is aimed at attracting and retaining talented women across the company with over 1000 members.

Lorraine Hughes, a Senior Director in the Planning team, followed to give us her top tips for a successful career:

  1. Go where you have a genuine interest
  2. Make the most of opportunities
  3. Network lots
  4. Be a team player
  5. Surround yourself with talent
  6. Have the right attitude
  7. Play to your strengths
  8. Be yourself
  9. Keep up to date
  10. Believe in yourself and your projects

We are lucky to be able to share Alison and Lorraine’s slides with you for those of you who could not make it. The slides can be accessed here: Women in Planning

We look forward to seeing you all at our next event!

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