CHICKS WITH BRICKS IS NOT ABOUT ALTRUISM OR POLITICAL IDEALS. IT'S ABOUT ECONOMICS, PURE AND SIMPLE
Well-behaved women rarely make history. The Suffragettes, Mae West, Frida Kahlo, Margaret Thatcher: whether or not we agree with their politics, beliefs or lifestyle choices, these are women who have taken life by the balls and haven't been afraid to defy social and political convention to succeed.
So where are the women making history in the construction industry? As a young female architect I've been surrounded by women my own age in the profession but finding role models at a more senior level has proved difficult.
Two years ago, it made me ask whether they existed at all and, if so, why was their success not visible? So I decided to create 'Chicks with Bricks'; an event space to seek out these women, not just within architecture but within the wider industry of construction - architects, developers, clients, engineers, contractors and policy makers - and allow them to meet, debate and celebrate their success.
Following the first dinner in March, 'Chicks with Bricks' has snowballed into a panindustry network and last week our event brought together an incredible group of 260 women at London's best room with a view - the top of the Gherkin.
The attendees - peers, role models and friends, from young entrepreneurs to senior partners - were sharp, sassy and successful women, making their mark on the built environment by commissioning it, designing it, building it and, most of all, enjoying it. Outside was a city in transformation and inside were the women who were creating that change through their own strength of mind, talent and ability. From the private sector came Sara Fox, former new buildings director for Swiss Re, the Gherkin's client, and from the public sector was Sarah Ebanja, who heads the £700 million Arsenal Development Scheme.
There are many women's groups in the industry but 'Chicks with Bricks' is different for one reason: it is not about promoting gender equality in the industry as an altruistic or political ideal. It's about economics, pure and simple.
Women are an increasingly powerful force in the economy and the construction industry.
In this generation, we have seen women in government heading the DTI, the DfES, the Department of Health, DEFRA, English Partnerships and winning us the Olympics.
In the private sector, femaleowned companies contribute £75 billion to the economy a year and 69 per cent of FTSE 100 companies have a woman on the board. Women are increasingly numerous on planning committees. Practices engaged in education, cultural or residential work will probably already have pitched to mixed-gender selection boards and be dealing with female clients.
Five years from now, the firms at the top of the game will be those who have recognised this change. They will be those who can engage with female clients and decision-makers, who recruit from the entire talent pool, who can tap into the intellectual resource of intelligent, successful women and who can retain key staff of both genders by providing career development, a healthy work environment and work-life balance for all.
'Chicks with Bricks' is about opening up a debate.
Our aspiration is to find an inclusive vision for the industry, focusing on collaboration between all sectors of the built environment and accepting absolutely nothing less than the very highest standards of design.
Visit: www. chickswithbricks. com