This blog is late, and a shorter edited version was published in BIM today a month or so ago. In the light of recent events it perhaps seems out of place now, but when we get back to normal whatever that is, then issues like diversity and inclusion will be staring us right in the face.
The message here is we’re stronger together with our collective skills, talents and experiences and backgrounds, not ripping shreds off each other for our differences and divergence……
This blog was going to be called – “Maybe I should have a vagina.”
But now it is called – “Maybe we should all have vaginas”
– The Vagina Chronicles: Chapter 8 – The Integration Conundrum.
If you know your Star Trek history then actually I really really really wanted to call this The Corbamite Manoeuvre, but as much as I love Jim very much, Corbamite has absolutely nothing to do with vaginas, although Jim did have a way with the ladies.
Setting the scene
Please see attached link below to a video, warning – industrial strong language right from the start! (Yeah I’m really getting this technology now, dinosaur that I am! In your face!)
Ellie Taylor, on The Mash Report, makes a point on behalf of all women everywhere. What is it like to live with constant scrutiny of everything you do, say and wear?
Or get this Tracy Babin MP – Parliament furore
I wonder if the colour of Rees Mogg’s tie would cause such a debate? Why do we feel we can comment on a woman’s dress sense but not a man’s? Double standards I wonder? Surely not?!
Or get this CIOB digital conference all male line up
Classic own goal here. As a woman what would you think as you sit in the audience and listen to 8 men mansplaining about BIM. Where are the women’s role models here? It’s not like we’re short of Women in BIM, and leading female exponents. If the CIOB can’t get diversity right at its’ own conference, what hope is there for the rest of us? Questions on leadership and philosophy here….. I think! I see the conference is now postponed to the Autumn because of C19. Maybe there’s an opportunity to review the line up! Come on CIOB! Walk the talk…….
As you can see, this blog is going to be quite a ride~
So this will be a mixture of thoughts!
The stereotype strikes back
So to begin, I know and fully recognise that I am the archetypal industry stereotype.
White, British, male, professional, middle aged (to be kind to myself!).
I grew up in an industry with female nude calendars on the wall, and male chauvinism in the extreme. So believe me I know what we’re talking about here. I accept I am the product of a biased industry, but hey, I could do with some with love too.
I applaud and support as much as I can, and have done in the past, initiatives on gender balance, diversity and sexuality. Albeit I accept I am a reconstructed dinosaur. I fully accept that and know my time is coming to an end, I am perhaps lumbering around in my own twilight here. Sometimes I recognise the old dinosaur lurking in the shadows and he likes to make an appearance now and then, and needs a talking to!
And we see groups for women, ethnic minorities, sexuality/gender groups and so on, formed almost every week. And that’s great – these opportunities provide networks of support and inspiration in times of difficulty, and also to help people move forward together. And of course there are various initiatives to focus on support, promotion, and career development for these minorities. (As an aside if I were to set up a group called Men in BIM and Design Management or MiBiM for short, I wonder how that would go down. We could wear black suits, white shirts, black ties and funky glasses and have crazy gadgets……..)
Back to the point, we can see things are changing. We’re talking about the issues, it’s on the radar screen for most organisations but we have a long way to go. And women are making inroads across the piece to some extent.
But there is a “BUT” coming isn’t there?!
At what point do these groups and initiatives become redundant? Because all we do is create more and more silos in an industry already overrun with fragmentation as it is. It seems that every time there’s an issue, our default response is to form a new group or have a working group, which is OK but really? It’s just another silo! Yet another communication boundary.
The key here is to deal with the underlying culture that drives how this works, the conscious and unconscious biases, the blockers, the manipulators and the power brokers. This is a much bigger challenge and a much longer burn. The groups and initiatives on all these issues do help, but they also provide a tick in the box, a salve to conscience, to say yep we’re doing something, but the underlying reality could still be quite different. Do you really see the underlying culture changing among the decision makers?
Just do a check for yourself…
How many women, BAME, LGBTQ+ are on the board of your organisation. How many women, BAME and LGBTQ+ do you have in senior leadership positions?
Uh huh. Thought so. Not so good is it?
Smelling what I’m selling here?
Crossing the white line
Dear people, I would love there to be a time soon when we can just talk about ability, skill and performance, and not have to worry about gender balance, diversity, ethnicity, sexuality and any preferences at all. To be living and working in a system and society that is fair and just to all. But look around, and you can see it just ain’t so.
We are living in a seriously fucked up society, and it’s really questionable whether it’s getting better at all. In a broader perspective many of, (most? if not all?) the political and social systems that are supposed to serve us for our benefit, just don’t. Someone usually does benefit, but it’s certainly not the majority!! Or those that really need it.
For me the question is really about having a vision for a time when we are just focused on performance, ability and skill, and not gender, sexuality, ethnicity and the rest, and when that is fair and equal for all people. Then we will have achieved real change. But for now, no way, not by a long shot.
And you can easily see that the current playing field for women and minorities is not level at all, and at various times I’ve been in favour of quotas, initiatives, groups, and all sorts of things but I don’t know that any of them are really the single answer here. The issue is the underlying attitude of the people who make the decisions. And sadly most of them are white, middle-aged, professionals in grey suits…And of course any change in the “rules” leads to unfairness to others, even though the rules have been skewed in their favour for centuries, millennia perhaps.
How do we change? What is the answer?
Waiting for Godot
I would say wait for the Millennials, Z’ers and iGeneration to come through, but I’m not sure what kind of industry they really want anyway and whether they actually want to hang around to lead the change rather than chase hub caps somewhere and have a good time – Apologies I may have succumbed to a millennial stereotype there! In another context Greta Thunberg is truly inspirational as is the movement she and others have inspired around the world. But the test will be whether she and her community can actually force through the change. The adults haven’t moved yet……..
So I think we might have to just wait and see. But just remember all these niche groups, movements and initiatives should have a limited shelf life. Their aim should be to do themselves out of a job, out of existence. I wonder if they see it like that? Have they defined what success looks like?
The goal is something much bigger here. It is going to take a long time and hard work influencing, moving, shifting.
Which is where I ended first time round, but then I began thinking some more.
Which is when my thinking changed and I thought “Maybe we should all have vaginas”, let’s just all be the same, but no doubt then we’d quickly find something else to discriminate against and bias people on. What would a world be like where we are are all just the same, behave the same, think and say the same?
Endlessly just the same.
Isn’t diversity our strength? The different views, experiences, and perspectives that any group of humankind brings to the table? Aren’t there studies that suggest that gender balanced teams perform better?
The creative process of anything, has to be in the fiery furnace of conflict and angst – the most wonderful creations and ideas emerge from a process that challenges, refines, suffers and enhances. If we all just said “Oh that’s nice” then the level of human attainment in any sphere will plummet like a stone.
We need each other. And we need each other to be different.
Check out Rebel Ideas by Matthew Syed:
Matthew discusses diversity, blindspots and much more. Diverse teams…just succeed. They consistently outperform their blinkered rivals. Speaking as someone who seems to have been in a different corner all my life, finally there might be some hope for me! But it may be too late cruel world! Aaaaarrrgh!
And now for some………Hope!
It is our differences that make the difference. That in the end can and will make the difference.
I need you to be different.
You need me to be different.
But those differences need to be girded and held with respect, love and care for our fellow humans. And total acceptance with no judgement. In that way we can help everyone to be the very best they can be. And they can help us to do that too.
Including the old dinosaur that is in me.
Isn’t that what we should be doing? Isn’t this where our energy should go? What do you think?
And as we move into a post-lockdown world maybe we can start to look at this again with fresh eyes, and look for ways to being us together to collaborate more effectively, rather than focus on our differences.
And hey! – Let’s be careful out there.
PS – This is the unedited version of the article that appeared in BIM Today February/March 2020, with a few additions….:o)
JOHNEYNON. – is an ageing,argumentative and contemplative architect, design manager, and BIMster. He lives on the south coast, and you can catch up with him here….and you can also find him on LinkedIn and Instagram.