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A practical guide to ensuring a more equitable MIPIM

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When it comes to gender equality, MIPIM should and can be better – Margaret Ravenscroft outlines some first steps

170509 coffey architects margaret ravnescroft

The annual three-day event in Cannes is known as the property networking event of the year. Unfortunately, it’s also notorious for being male dominating and female degrading. 

This will be my third year at MIPIM, and during my past visits I’ve witnessed the gender imbalance and blatant sexism first-hand, as well as hearing about it from countless other women, and sometimes men.

Years ago, a female journalist friend was invited to a luncheon by an award-winning architecture practice. She was seated next to the only other woman invited to the event – a sex worker hired for the male guests.

But it was only last year, in her AJ  MIPIM blog, that architect Julia Barfield wrote of her experience with ‘outrageous casual everyday sexism at the Boules matches’. Seems not much has changed.

Since then ‘Weinstein’ has become a term synonymous with sexual assault; #MeToo and #TimesUp have turned into global movements; and in January we were appalled but not surprised to find out that 50 per cent of the President’s Club guests were property professionals.

Personally, I am ready for a change this year in Cannes. As such, I’ve put together a practical guide to how both men and women can ensure a more equitable MIPIM.

  • Representation Carefully consider who you are sending to represent your practice. Simply put, send some women. If you only have male directors, you can empower your female associates by sending them.
  • Visibility If you are involved in a panel discussion, roundtable or formal presentation, make sure there is a gender balance among participants. Before confirming your own attendance, voice your commitment to panel parity and decline to participate if there are two or more people speaking and not one is female. The ‘Panel Pledge’ idea is already an established movement in our industry and others, a best practice that’s easy to adopt. If you are attending a panel and there is zero female representation, leave. Show that you have no tolerance for continued inequality and invisibility.
  • Take a stance If you are an organiser, media partner or corporate sponsor, take a stance, make a statement. Commit to all-female bloggers. Create a social media campaign that highlights the fab females in the industry. Run an advert that educates your readers about subtle acts of sexism in the workplace. Do something.
  • Don’t be a pervert Ok, so most of you probably aren’t. And if you’ve read this far, it’s likely because you are someone who desires change. Still, pay attention to how you are acting, especially if you are drinking. Make sure your female companions feel comfortable and safe, around you and others. Remember, there’s a spectrum of inequality that we must recognise. Sometimes women are sexually harassed. Sometimes they are made uncomfortable by gendered power dynamics. Often, they are overlooked.
  • Be an ally Male or female, check your ego at the door and stand in solidarity with those being oppressed. If you’re told that certain language is outdated, change it. If you notice a too-close-for-comfort conversation taking place, step in and reroute the attention.
  • Keep this conversation going The issues aren’t confined to MIPIM, they aren’t confined to our industry, and they aren’t confined to women. I can’t stress this point enough. It’s not just women that need to fight for equality. Men – especially those in power – need to speak up and act. So please, ride this sea-change. Address and make actual changes within your organisation and keep fighting the good fight.

Margaret Ravenscroft is head of communications and engagement for Coffey Architects

  • 3 Comments

Readers' comments (3)

  • Great article.

    Women have been shouting about this for years, you are so right that it is the time for men to speak up...
    'Men – especially those in power – need to speak up and act'.

    MIPIM needs to be a welcoming place for everyone. If the pretext for winning work has sexist and demeaning undertones, what chance have we got for equality throughout the project. Change in the profession needs to start at high level to set the benchmark and the tone.

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  • Gender imbalance yes. Female degrading?

    The male dominance is symptomatic in our industry, especially engineering which is my discipline. We would dearly love more woman in our teams and profession as a whole. So the gender imbalance at this point is unavoidable. I agree that more can be done on the panel selections for example.

    This is my sixth year and I am pleased that I can honestly say I have never seen degradation of any of the females as our guests or generally when at functions.

    I genuinely think some of the stories are perhaps a generation ago where society in general turned a blind eye to this type of behaviour. Stories of sex workers being hired to sit at a corporate lunch seem incredibly far fetched but if they did happen then that is surely something of the very distant past. Thankfully the world is changing.

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  • Dominance hierarchies exist in both Females and Males, but the dynamic and expression differs. But in a competitive context, which this is, it is critical to realise that 'agreeableness' does not indicate for success. Gender politics aside, this is about a market dynamic and competence and skill - alongside determination and tenacity are the qualities that lead to success in the professions and business. Balance is everything - equality of opportunity is critical for everyone. But that is as far as it can go at a societal level - the rest is about the individual. This is always the place to start - and end.

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