Grasshopper Communications, Managing Director
Chairman of the South Wales branch of Women in Property
Last week the Welsh Government and Design Commission for Wales launched the Placemaking Wales Charter, in which the theme of People and Community features as one of the six pledge commitments.
Charter guidance states that good placemaking should place people ‘at the heart of the process’ and result in places that are ‘vibrant, have a clear identity and where people can develop a sense of belonging.’
As professionals working in the built environment, the more we can represent the places we are building, or infrastructure we are delivering – the better the user and socio-economic outcomes we can deliver.
Engaging communities around placemaking is a core part of my day job at Grasshopper Communications, and taking time to understand the demographic of each local community is key to helping us design engagement programmes that enable meaningful dialogue and ensure we hear a diverse range of voices. Having a project team that reflects the communities we are engaging, in my experience, clearly has benefits in helping us effectively engage and fully understand local needs and aspirations.
One of the reasons I took on the role of Chairman of the South Wales Women in Property Committee is because I feel passionately about promoting women within, what often remains, a male dominated property and construction industry – something that can still be seen at nearly every project team meeting I attend. There is clearly still work to be done on this front.
Evidence this week again confirms the benefits of ensuring women are represented at a senior level within organisations – with a survey of employees for the Bloomberg Gender Equality Index demonstrating that companies with greater gender diversity in leadership roles generate a more positive experience for all employees throughout their organisations.
As a national organisation, Women in Property strives towards creating an industry that is more balanced, diverse and inclusive, by encouraging young women to enter the industry, and then by helping female professionals progress their careers and reach those leadership roles, such as those striving for board level. This is done through a mix of networking and CPD events designed to create opportunity and expand skills and knowledge, as well as a mentoring programme free to all members. In terms of encouraging young women into the industry, a range of school engagement activity takes place, as well as the National Student Awards that celebrate the achievements of second year (third in Scotland) students studying a built environment subject in Universities across the UK. At national level, we contribute to the Women and Work All Party Parliamentary Group and our colleagues have influenced in both the Welsh Assembly and Holyrood.
However, as recent events such as the Black Lives Matter campaign has highlighted, beyond gender there is a bigger job to do to make the industry more representative of the communities it is serving, with a range of other factors such as age, disability, race, religion, sexual orientation and gender identity that need to be considered. Women in Property has always worked to improve diversity and inclusion in the property and construction industry, and to this end, has begun implementing initiatives to broaden this agenda beyond gender and move towards helping ensure that all segments of society are better represented within the industry.
I will be committing to the Placemaking Charter, and as local Chairman of Women in Property I will continue to champion inclusivity and diversity within the built environment industry, and as a community engagement professional I will continue to build dialogue with local communities and champion these views, to help deliver vibrant places where people feel they belong.