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