Women in Planning marked International Women’s Day with the launch of its new Mentoring Scheme. Jessica Herrity of Aspbury Planning, chair of Women in Planning East Midlands, and Emma Cartledge-Taylor of Shoosmiths, chair of Women in Planning West Midlands, discuss why the scheme is needed and the overwhelming response from the industry
We see the new Mentoring Scheme as a continuation of overall promises to support and encourage women throughout their career. These were founding principles of the network and continues to be a strong focus across our activities. We were delighted to launch the scheme on 8 March to coincide with International Women’s Day but we were also proud to launch this during the pandemic.
Why mentoring now?
Both the East Midlands and West Midlands branches of Women in Planning wanted to provide additional support to the network during the pandemic beyond the network’s virtual events. We had seen reports of the pandemic hitting women harder. Even now, reports are being published which show that women are more likely to be furloughed or doing the majority of the unpaid work such as careering responsibility and housework. We thought the Mentoring Scheme was a good way to at least provide women with someone to talk to about professional issues they were facing.
The network coming together across all branches to deliver a national program of events had given us extra capacity and due to a rise in virtual working, it was much easier to design and deliver the Mentoring Scheme.
The challenges in planning
From research Women in Planning has undertaken, we know that there is an issue with women reaching leadership positions in private sector planning consultancies. Some 83% of director or above roles in private planning consultancies are filled by men and 17% by women, even though overall 40% of professional planners are female.
A further study by the Royal Town Planning Institute also found gender had limited opportunities for promotion and that women were at risk of discrimination when returning from maternity leave.
The Mentoring Scheme has actively asked what type of support or advice mentees are looking for, including in the areas of promotion or returning to work.
Benefits of mentoring for women
Traditionally, women do not benefit from the same social networks as men in the workplace, in part, due to masculine cultures. The RTPI report demonstrated that there is some evidence of masculine cultures in the planning workplace. The Mentoring Scheme provides the opportunity for what entrepreneur and business leader Liz Elting calls “close-knit professional network” with those who have already forged ahead in their careers.
Mentors can also act as role models and research has found that this can support women in widening their career ambitions, either up the career ladder or to have what Helen Tupper and Sarah Ellis call a “squiggly career”.
Mentoring for women at all stages in their careers
We wanted a Mentoring Scheme that was inclusive. Therefore, the Mentoring Scheme aims to support women in planning at all levels across the industry, from university students up to director and beyond. We want to buddy people up to provide them with support and have designed the Mentoring Scheme to inspire collaboration, the sharing of knowledge and experiences and encourage the development of mentors and mentees skills.
How the scheme works
We have been overwhelmed by the response to our inaugural Mentoring Scheme. We had to close it two weeks after being launched as we reached our maximum intake. There is clearly a strong demand for our Mentoring Scheme and now the team is focused on “buddying up” 20 pairings for the first mentoring cohort.
Support has been focused on key areas. These range from support with a work promotion, coming back to work following maternity leave and/or advice regarding managing a team, and more. The connections will be made by correlating these areas of support with the experience of a mentor.
Due to the rise in remote and digital working, pairings will not necessarily be based on locations. Our members are spread across the UK, including Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland. It’s a really exciting to enable members to network across the country.
The scheme will kick off in July and we have suggested that the mentoring relationship lasts a year to make it meaningful and encourage those participating to make regular contact.
Women in Planning East Midlands
Women in Planning West Midlands
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