Sunday, 14 March, 2021


Jamie Ounan

We believe that the best solutions are yet to be discovered and the best outcomes yet to be delivered. That is why we prepare organisations for change and help them implement it. We do this through an intimate understanding of their business, a relentless focus on delivery, the use of techniques that challenge the status quo and bridge traditional disciplines. We provide a range of services to public and private organisations including project and programme management, property consultancy, change management and strategy development and strategic advice. Contact us to discuss a project.

Sunday, 14 March 

Guest contributors: Cheryl Bannerman and Sophie Grimmer

What we’re seeing and what we’ve been up to 

On International Women’s Day, we celebrate the achievements of women. Their contributions so often having a lasting impact on the industry, yet so many can share stories where their work has been overlooked or diminished. Recent events are also a tragic reminder that there is still a lot of work to be done to achieve true equality for women. Whilst the world can examine the root cause of the appalling behaviour of the man in this tragic case (and many others), we professionals can also think harder about how public spaces can be better designed for everyone and fulfil their function of providing a safe environment.

Inner Circle has chosen to use the month of March as a reminder to show appreciation to women and the contributions that they bring, including hosting inspiring events that improve our learning and call us to action, as well as spotlighting women that embody the spirit of leadership and progress.

While progress has been made, we also acknowledge that gender disparity remains within the industry. Research from RICS shows that we’ve got a long way to go – women make up just 16% of their total global qualified professionals. The theme of ‘allyship’ remains pertinent as we continue to discuss the experiences of women in the industry and now more than ever is a good time to reflect on how we can individually and corporately do better to support our peers, today and everyday.

What strategies can we put in place to eliminate conscious and unconscious bias? What structural and sometimes invisible barriers do women come across that can hinder their opportunity to be the best they can be? We believe that open and honest conversations for all types of organisations – public, private, and third sectors – are the places where solutions can be birthed.

As restrictions begin to ease and we revisit our towns, cities, public and private spaces, Inner Circle will be using the lessons learned from these last twelve months and consider how we can reflect, adapt and improve the processes in our projects and as a progressive organisation.

We #ChooseToChallenge the barriers to success for women in our industry by equipping all our colleagues with knowledge and confidence to challenge the issues they encounter. These celebrations are part of our journey.

What we’re learning and watching 

Business leaders can champion diversity initiatives and role model the right behaviour. Externally they can partner with community leaders in support of fair policing and ensure they only do business with institutions that do not benefit from systemic racism. With the built environment and consultancy industries being one of the largest sectors in the economy, it has a key responsibility to ensure that women can enter into and progress their careers across the diverse remit of roles the sector encompasses.

Here are a few suggested reading and gallery items that inspire us:

  • Creating Positive Change With Thoughtful Leadership. Alicia Roman, The Earth Institute’s new executive director, shares what drew her to their mission, her goals for the organisation, and her views on what makes a good leader.
  • Leading exceptions, like Jane Jacobs and Janette Sadik-Khan aside, city-making remains a male-dominated profession. Confronting this reality, the Guardian Cities spoke with a number of prominent female urbanists to find out what the alternative could look like. Although published from a few years ago, this writing remains prescient. The series found women had a more pragmatic, collaborative and empathetic processes, and planning and design solutions that recognised the need for safe and inclusive places.
  • Opening in May at the Barbican Centre (oh, how we’ve been dreaming of walking through the observatory), How We Live Now is an exhibition about the legendary Matrix feminist design co-operative, who addressed the ways in which the design of the built environment excludes particular groups, particularly in relation to gender, race and disability. Curated by Edit Collective, a feminist design collective focusing on the enduring biases and hierarchies embedded into the environment, this show is one we’re looking forward to.
  • The Museum of London has put on a stellar virtual exhibition celebrating women’s history of innovation and the special role that this city we love has had to play in it.


What’s going on 

Organisations such as Women In Property continue to work hard to shift the dial in achieving gender parity across the built environment sector but their ongoing work demonstrates positive change is still necessary.

As we look to the safe, gradual reopening of the UK, we expect our high streets and town centres to look vastly different in ways subtle and unsubtle. Last week, Amazon opened its first Amazon Fresh supermarket in the UK, at British Land’s Ealing Broadway Shopping Centre. The shop, the start of a gradual foray for online retailers into bricks and mortar, does away with traditional tills and instead, shoppers scan their products using their smartphones and automatically pay for their items as they leave. The novelty of the experience will wear off, but we see a long-term movement of all retailers toward improving the user experience to be frictionless. And one for all town centre managers to keep an eye on.

Finally, we’ve always been inspired to create great places. It’s not enough to simply build more stuff – we need to create communities in a way that inspires and supports all people. The Urban Land Institute, with insight from our Associate Wes Erlam, has published 21st Century New Communities: Raising the Ambition, featuring principles on delivering excellent projects that bring positive change.