BIM Regions outlines plans to boost women in BIM and reach across industry

The BIM Regions network, established last year as the new identity for the former regional BIM Hubs, has committed to gender equality in its leadership group, promising a 50:50 balance of men and women in the roles of regional “BIM Champions”.

At the same time, the organisation has outlined its plans to expand its “reach” in BIM mandate year from about 10,000-15,000 industry professionals to around 25,000 – through its regional events programmes, e-newsletters and website.  

The steps to establish BIM as an arena where women are visibly represented were outlined at a recent quarterly meeting of its national executive, the “BIM Champions” group. 

The organisation currently has 16 regional groups, each appointing two BIM “champions” to act as a focal point on BIM for businesses in the region.

But achieving the 50:50 target would be via creating additional “BIM Champion” roles, rather than “playing musical chairs” with the existing appointments, explained John Eynon, who is co-chair of the BIM Champions group, alongside Elizabeth Kavanagh of architect Stride Treglown.

Boosting the number of women taking a leadership role in BIM would therefore be achieved by encouraging regions to subdivide and create more focused, responsive organisations.

Eynon said: “As a male in a male-dominated industry, I think we need to do something to change the game, and take a thought leadership position.”

BIM Regions – formerly supported by the Construction Industry Council, but now free-standing and self-supporting – is to be constituted as a not-for-profit legal entity, allowing it to raise funds and trade independently.

It also plans to boost engagement with local government, Local Enterprise Partnerships and framework providers, possibly by holding joint events.

The executive also hopes to work more closely with leading trade associations across the industry. It has also appointed marketing consultant Pam Bhandal (@Pambhandal) as lead on communications and PR. 

On the target to reach 25,000 people in 2016, Eynon said: “We want to move on from a mindset of maintenance and into a mindset of growth.” 

Other plans for the coming year include producing a “collaboration toolkit” based on the existing BS 11000 standard, Collaborative Business Relationships. 

As a male in a male-dominated industry, I think we need to do something to change the game, and take a thought leadership position.– John Eynon, co-chair, BIM Champions group

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  1. Can I say that this is not the right way to go about equality in construction. If I read the article right it is suggesting that of the 32 champions, 16 will be given to women, why not give it to the most appropriate person? A MUCH better system would be to ask for an open anonymous application (generate userID) so that those appointing do so solely on the merits of that person.

    While I am male, I am also Welsh and would hate to be told “Congratulations Dan, you have been selected to join , not because you are the best person for it but because you ticked the Welsh box we needed ticking” or likewise “Sorry Dan, you were the best person for the post, but we didn’t meet our equality target so we went with someone else”

    Promoting equality in construction is a great idea and something we need to do in order to attract the best and brightest talent. But this needs to be done through gender lensing not some box ticking exercise.

  2. I’m not a fan of quotas myself, but the key for me here is that the number of BIM champions is being extended. As a woman in BIM, some of the biggest barriers I have faced (until recently) have been glass ceilings and opportunities I worked for being usurped by my male manager. By extending the number of champions, this is a commitment to identifying and developing women’s talents. With more prominent female role models, both overt and second order biases should decline. My current role is technology deployment in highways, and women are represented about 50/50 among my peers. Jumping to conclusions, I see women as enablers, who are willing to put aside their careers or take on additional work on top of their formal roles to advance the industry. It’s not a very feminist position, because it suggests there is a “female brain,” but that is my observation. Either way, it seems that more women BIM champions will be fantastic for the industry as a whole.

  3. Fantastic that John and Elizabeth are taking a lead on this. I can understand Dan’s point of view, but echo Ches in pointing out that key is that the number of champions is being extended to achieve the 50/50.
    This is about recognising gender as a positive difference that will create the right conditions to encourage more women into BIM roles. It should not be viewed as a competition between candidates, but an assessment of candidates against the job criteria.
    Back in 1994, my diploma year was created because there were no jobs to go to. My class comprised of about 10, of which 3 were female. I was interviewed and selected to work with a small interior design firm (four men) on the final basis of my gender (this was stated, not assumed). This company had had the foresight to believe that a female would help create a more balanced environment and provide an alternative design perspective. In a recession, I was not in a position to quibble about gender bias, as much as I wanted to be taken on by merit alone. I took the job because it was the only opportunity going. I was the only person who had a job in my diploma year.
    You can always train someone on technical aspects of a job, but if you wish to eliminate bias in this industry then we must make difference work by providing role models.

  4. 50/50 Part 1 (word limit!)

    Regions response:

    I want to respond to Dan’s comments as he raises serious issues, which deserve a considered response. However before we get carried away we need to put this in context and give it some perspective.

    We invited BIM+ to our Champs Board as one of our media partners. Of necessity their article is a very brief snippet of a 4-hour meeting. So it’s going to be a little short on detail.

    The 50/50 gender balanced target is just that, a target. We have set a number of targets for what we are calling the Champs SLA (Service Level Agreement) in terms of what we will deliver as a network at a local level. These are guidelines, a framework, to introduce some consistency and a minimum standard. However in terms of gender balance, if we achieve our target, we will do so by growth not through playing musical chairs with people and roles. We grow the network, we grow more groups, and we get more Champs. Simples. Many of our groups have core leadership teams, have as many champs as you like! Hopefully some will be women, some will be from ethnic minorities and various sexual orientations to increase our diversity. Our intention is to connect, grow and network – with everyone.

    There seems to be an underlying misconception that people are queuing up to be Champs. Far from it! I wish. This is a role that is unpaid, you get little thanks, we receive no funding from anyone and it takes effort, commitment and a passion for BIM and transforming our recalcitrant industry. Moreover it would seem that we are engaged in some clandestine selection or de-selection process – this could not be further from the truth.

    I cannot imagine any circumstances, under which someone whoever they are, whatever their race, gender, sexuality or creed being turned away if they’re willing to commit and help.

    As a point of reference in terms of current status, our Board has 30% women – not bad by industry standards. And that was without trying! So why not 50%?

    So far so good. But our vision as the BIM Regions takes in a much broader picture now. What does a truly Digital Industry look like? In terms of gender, race, sexuality, sustainability, safety, health, environment, whole life balance, communities, work force and so on?

    I return to what I said at our meeting. As a typical professional male in a male dominated industry, maybe the time has come to try to even things up a bit. People will argue about the “right” way to this. Any excuse not to do something. If we can create a culture where anyone can come forward and stand up to be counted, particularly where we are creating a culture that encourages and supports women, those from ethnic minorities and any sexual orientation to be recognized, affirmed and empowered, then surely this is a step in the right direction. Pointing to a Digital Diverse Industry?


  5. 50/50 Part 2

    Regions response continued>>>>

    Justin Trudeau appointed a gender-balanced cabinet for the Canadian Government. I imagine some argued with that. He had made a stand.

    Whilst what we are trying to do in the BIM Regions perhaps can’t be compared in the same way, I believe if we are talking about a digital transformation and everything that means, then we can at least try to show how things should be.

    We talk about BIM, so we have our own Champs CDE courtesy of 4 Projects/Viewpoint.

    As we grow the network, then our number of Champs will increase and hopefully we will achieve a gender balanced board.

    This is a framework, a guideline, an intention, a rule of thumb even.
    Meeting these targets and our other aspirations is totally dependent on who’s out there and willing to work with us, and how we develop.

    For your information Sarah Rock, Champ for the South East, is our lead on diversity and inclusion. Also we retain our links with the CIC and they remain one of our key partners.

    So I finish with an open message to everyone in the industry. By all means sit in the stands and pass comment. Or you can get on the pitch with us and help determine the outcome.
    Your call!
    Join us!

    Joint Chair – BIM Regions

  6. Thank you John for responding, I appreciate it.

    My issue was simple, The article stated a 50:50 promise ‘for equality’ and Sarah Rock’s tweet yesterday stating that male champs would be matched with female champs (and vice-versa) appeared to further reinforce a gender based selection approach. You have clarified in your comments that this will not be the case, so thank you for putting my concern at ease.

    Yes I am currently sat on the stands passing comment but that is because I have been waiting for over two years for my pitch to be built! If you built it, I will come.

  7. John, is there a deadline for the 50/50 gender-balanced target?

    As you are encouraging the BIM regions to split, grow and thus increase the number of Champs, are you also advising the groups on how to actively encourage/recruit Champs and female Champs in particular?
    I question your wording:

    “We grow the network, we grow more groups, and we get more Champs. Simples.”


    “Hopefully some will be women…”

    Simples? Hopefully? Please don’t dilute the groups’ commitment by watering down intentions. Tell us that there will be strategy that actively encourages the female BIM community to step up to the Champ role. May Sarah Rock lead the way.

  8. Karen, I understand what you’re saying. We’re trying to do some things that are quite innovative in the middle of trying to move the network forward into a new phase of growth, impact and influence.

    I think Sarah will provide us with great leadership in this respect, and has made our position pretty clear I think.

    I would like to think we could get close in about 12 months or so, but that’s dependent on a lot of factors, including how much tangible support we get.

    Maybe you’d like to join us! You know where we are……..:o).

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