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Awards 2024

International Women's Day #InspireInclusion

It’s International Women’s Day today, with a theme of #InspireInclusion. I find these days are a good time to reflect on how things have changed and how they still need to change.

Interestingly this subject came up at our BECBC Professional Services Showcase earlier this week. A long-term member (you know who you are!) who hasn’t been for a while came along and immediately commented on how many women there were in the room. When I first started going to BECBC meetings around 2009 it was very male dominated, in fact we said to each other on Wednesday that we could probably name every woman in the room in those days as there were so few of us. Now there are queues in the ladies toilets in the breaks (the only downside of more women in the room! I mean when will architects realise that however many ladies toilets they think they need, needs to double?)

So what got us there? This is a very difficult question to answer. I think for me it’s about the people. The women who took a deep breath to walk into a room full of men and have their voice heard and the men who understood that they needed more women in the room and not just made the space for them but actively encouraged their voices to be heard.

But we can’t celebrate yet. I constantly go back to the fact that your family circumstances when you’re born is the biggest indicator of life and career success in the UK, often both affluence and poverty are inherited traits. Now here at BECBC I see lots of our companies being run by people who are former apprentices born onto estates & not the landed gentry kind. So while nuclear, construction and engineering have to improve on gender diversity actually they may contain some lessons on social mobility. If we combine the lessons across the whole piece we may be able to create a diverse workforce to deliver on the nationally important projects such as Sellafield Decommissioning, building of new power plants and development of new energy technology. So what helps these leaders succeed in these industries? Is it the availability of apprenticeships? A focus on technical education? What do you think?

Away from the world of business I find myself despairing at the way our system can still hold women back. The number of women who are jailed for non-payment of TV license, their children taken into care and their homes and incomes put at jeopardy should, frankly be a national disgrace. If you’re interested in understanding the data the Women in Prison website is worth a visit.

But for me the main thing about inclusion is we cannot achieve it until women feel safe. Male violence against women has been on the front pages following the Wayne Couzens report on Sarah Everards murder but most violence against women is committed by men they know & often are in a relationship with. Until our system starts to deal with this seriously we’ll never have true inclusion of opportunity.

But that’s the system right? I can hear some of you thinking how can we change that? Systems are built by people and can be changed by people. Highlighting where the system goes wrong and fighting for change is something we can all do to #InspireInclusion.

The photo is of me, my daughter, my granddaughter, my mother and my grandmother some years ago and shows how being surrounded by strong women can be a joy in your life. Let’s do all we can to ensure all women get the chance for such joy.

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