Planning for change - Women in Urbanism Aotearoa

There are a lot of white males between the ages of 30 and 50 working in senior roles in urban design and planning in New Zealand, according to Auckland’s, Jessica Rose. It’s time for more diversity, she believes, and that’s exactly what  Women in Urbanism Aotearoa(WiU), intends on promoting.

"Lady bike advocate" - Jessica Rose

"Lady bike advocate" - Jessica Rose

“It’s not about replacing them (the men), or being better than them,” spokesperson Rose says. “It’s about creating equality.”

Still in its infancy - it was only set up a few months ago - WiU has two key aims. One is committing to moving more women into senior leadership roles in related industries.

“We’re looking at whether there enough women employed in these industries after they graduate? Do women drop off at any particular level, and if so why does that happen?” she says.

“It’s unlikely women don’t have leadership roles because they don’t want them, so there’s something in the workplace that means they don’t get them or go into them.

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The other key aim is campaigning for women’s issues around the future planning of cities.

“We’re talking about design development,” she says. “Is that bus stop in the best place if women have to wait alone for a bus to come? Do you want your kids to be able to ride their bikes safely to school? When building new communities do you want to be isolated from your neighbours or for the space to have a more communal feel? Should there be more street lighting? That sort of thing.”

The WiU movement is nationwide, and looking to foster local branches.

Rose describes herself as a “Lady Bike Advocate” with a keen interest in active transport and urbanism.  She’s a local board member for Albert Eden.

“We’re a collective of voices from both industry and non industry roles with a passion for Urbanism,” she says. “This is a conversation that we all need to be having because it is one that affects our everyday life and experience. Our built environment directly influences how we behave, if affects our mood, it shapes our communities.

“We would love people to join and get involved.”

The group’s open to all women who care about cities, sustainability, climate change and good design outcomes for women. It provides a support network of women of all ages and experience. In the future professional development courses will be run. Graduates will be invited to career evenings and able to use WiU as a job network.

“We want to give women the same confidence that already privileged white men are born with,” says MRCagney designer,  Emma McInnes. “We want to fight unconscious and conscious bias in the workplace that leads ultimately to a very distressing lack of women in leadership.”

Anyone who is keen to get involved can follow them on twitter: @WomenInUrbanism, or go to their Facebook page.