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International Women’s Day: built environment sector doubles down on gender equality

Built environment bodies have used International Women’s Day to draw attention to gender inequity in the sector, and announce plans to tackle the issue.

BVN sets deadline for gender parity

Architectural firm BVN announced it had set 2025 as the date at which gender parity must be achieved across all levels and areas of the studio.

Currently there are 53 per cent men to 47 per cent women company-wide, however the rate does not hold for senior positions.

BVN chief executive James Grose said the company was working to fix this.

“We are committed to addressing these imbalances,” he said.

This will involve “proactive and strategic actions such as identifying and mentoring our team, strategically hiring to close the gender gap and implementing conscious initiatives to retain our senior team through utilising our flexibility policy to attract women and men, and ensuring equitable pay across all levels”.

“We’re not starting from zero – we have a richly diverse studio; that richness comes from varying perspectives, culture and education.”

Mr Grose said updates would be published on progress.

Tackling gender inequity in landscape architecture

The Australian Institute of Landscape Architects (AILA), together with Parlour and Monash University’s XYX Lab, used the day to announce the launch of a gender equity study, which will investigate participation rates of women in landscape architecture and develop strategies to address gender inequity.

“I couldn’t think of a better time to announce that AILA is launching a gender equity study,” AILA chief executive Tim Arnold said.

Dr Gill Matthewson, responsible for the analytics behind Parlour’s research into the architecture sector, welcomed the commitment.

“What analysis of the numbers of women did for the architecture profession was to shift the argument from vague anecdote to undeniable fact,” Dr Matthewson said.

“It’s great that AILA is commissioning this work because you need to know what the situation actually is before you can start strategising what to do about it. I’m very interested to see what the picture is for women in landscape architecture.”

It might not be good news either, with a salary survey last year finding women accounted for 70 per cent of lower paid positions in the profession, while men made up 100 per cent of high-income positions.

  • See here for a detailed project overview and here to help fund the research

Property industry locking in diversity as core value

Property Council of Australia chief operating officer Kathy Mac Dermott said while there was still work to do, the property industry had made solid steps towards locking in diversity as a core operating principle.

“Over the last few years we, as an industry, have really increased our efforts,” Ms Mac Dermott said.

“The Property Council has established a broad range of practical tools, resources and initiatives to promote diversity and these have been embraced by our members.

“Diversity is increasingly accepted as a core principle, for staff, leaders and companies alike.”

She said programs like the Panel Pledge (to ensure female representation on speaking panels), Women in Property and Property Male Champions of Change (PMCC) were seeing both commitments to and action on diversity.

The PMCC 2016-17 progress report showed that all organisations involved had adopted formal flexible work policies or strategies, and 75 per cent had achieved balance or progress towards balance on women in key management personnel.

“Member companies are also implementing their own initiatives, such as improved parental leave arrangements and it is encouraging to see so many now being recognised by the [Workplace Gender Equality Agency],” Ms Mac Dermott said.

She said while the sector was not yet where it needed to be, “the progress to date is encouraging”.

More women needed in construction

Master Builders Australia chief executive Denita Wawn said more women pursuing careers in building and construction would help to address the gender pay gap, as it was one the highest-paying sectors.

“There is profound community concern about the gender pay gap,” Ms Wawn said.

“Getting more women into well-paying jobs in growing industries like building and construction has a big role in closing it.”

The construction industry, however, has a reputation for being notoriously unfriendly towards women.

Ms Wawn said Master Builders’ Women Building Australia initiative was working to change perceptions about the building and construction industry so more women could be recruited, trained and retained.

“We want our members’ businesses to benefit from the skills and aptitudes that women bring to building and construction workplaces,” Ms Wawn said.

“Master Builders has also launched a national mentoring program to support women in their choice of a construction industry career.”

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