Many women are still at a disadvantage

Conference debates role of women in landscape architecture

Do women have a problem in landscape architecture? At first one might think not, given the near equal representation they have in the landscape professions. But a session at the end of the first day of the LI conference led to a lively debate both on the platform and from the audience.

Chaired by Romy Rawlings of Frosts Landscape Construction, the panel also included Mary O’Connor of WYG and Michelle Bolger of Michelle Bolger Expert Landscape Consultancy. Mary O’Connor mentioned the fact that the 2014 employment survey showed that twice as many men as women earned more than £50,000 a year, and that there were no women earning more than £100,000. This correlated with Michelle Bolger’s experience of large practices, where it was still extremely rare to see women at board level.

Some women in the audience spoke about the way that they had reconciled motherhood and careers by starting their own practices – a great solution for those that it works for, but surely not one that women should feel forced to adopt? There was discussion about pay and how difficult women find it to negotiate on their own behalf.

Clare Devine of Design Council CABE, who is also chair of Women in Architecture, spoke about how her organisation had made a conscious effort to bring in more women (as well as members of ethnic minorities) and about the recruitment processes that organisations can use to counter their engrained prejudices.

It seems that the organisation that was so intimately bound up with such pioneering women as Sylvia Crowe and Brenda Colvin still has battles to fight on behalf of its female members. How appropriate then, that there is a move to get Sylvia Crowe and Brenda Colvin recognised with blue plaques.

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