BIM2050 group responds to questions on lack of female members

The BIM2050 Group has responded to questions raised on Twitter about the decrease in female representation on the new group, which was announced last month and only contains two women members.

Casey Rutland, associate director ‪at Arup Associates started the discussion by asking the Construction Industry Council (CIC), which set up the group, “what’s with the 85:15, M/F split in the new ‪BIM2050 group? Not exactly promoting equality in our industry’s future is it?”

Out of the 12 “future gazing” young professionals that form the group only Alex MacLaren (RIBA) and Sarah Birchall (BSRIA) are women – the remaining 10 members are male. Two further stand-in members, Will Hackney (CIOB) and Dwight Wilson (CIBSE) are also male.

This means that the current proportion of full-members in the group that are female is 16.6%.

When the original group was set up in 2013, five out of its 17 members were female meaning that 29.4% of the group were women. By the time the group released its Built Environment 2050 report , there were nine members, including three women. 

Former vice-chair Neil Thompson ICIOB, of Balfour Beatty, who is acting as the chair of the new group, responded by pointing to the underlying lack of gender diversity in the industry. 

“The selection process was fair and represents the industry today, it highlights the current lack of diversity and it is a key issue we want to bring to the foreground,” said Thompson.

“To move forward, the BIM2050 Group wants to engage with diversity groups and focus on why representation is low in the industry. We will then utilise the support of the CIC to maximise our reach and encourage women in construction to join our effort for an equitable construction industry,” he continued.

Applicants for positions in the group were sought last year from members of the CIC’s member organisations, with the final group selected by CIC staff.

Initially this group contained three female members. However, the CIC has told BIM+ that because one institution subsequently left the CIC, the member representing that institution had to be withdrawn from the group.

In addition, the application process did not ask potential members to state their sex, it seems that there was also uncertainty at the CIC over whether applicants were male or female – with a spokesperson suggesting that the CIC believed that one male member was a female.

Former BIM 2050 Group member Rebecca De Cicco, a director at Digital Node, said the number of women in the group and the profession needed to be addressed: “I would have liked to see more women in this group and this is something we need to ensure we (as an industry) address moving into the future. Perhaps this is a good opportunity to surface a debate about diversity and for the BIM2050 Group to support this incentive.”

Like Thompson, De Cicco pointed out that the group reflects the current make-up of the industry: “Engagement with equality is supremely difficult in the construction industry. The gender distribution of the new BIM2050 Group does in fact represent the industry and highlights why I’m passionate about diversity and change,” she said.

Although the group’s members were selected in a fair manner, De Cicco suggests that gender balance needs to be created in industry groups: “I also enforce that gender balance in groups like this must occur to promote younger professionals and encourage and support the future of our industry.

“I hope to see the CIC support and encourage this incentive for future groups.”

Alex MacLaren, one of the only two females in the group, pointed out that the Group was diverse in other ways: "As an incoming member I’m not aware exactly how the appointment process was managed, though I was surprised to be one of only two female members.

"But in other areas of diversity (which I think are equally important) CIC have done pretty well: we have a fair number of BME members; we’re spread all over the UK, not London-centric; we have people holding various roles across contractors, clients, consultants, educators and policy-makers, and from large Ltd Co’s to SMEs. I think that gives us a fair chance to generate some exciting and properly representative conversations across the industry. We’re a socially diverse bunch and the conversations so far have been open and welcoming. I’m excited!"

BIM 2050 Group members

Tom Bartley (ICE); Sarah Birchall; Bobby Chakravarthy (APS); Henry Fenby-Taylor (LI); Alex Lubbock (CIOB); Adam Golden (ICES); 
David Knight (IstructE); 
Alex MacLaren (RIBA); 
Mac Muzvimwe (RICS)
; Charlie Murray (CIBSE)
; Daniel Rossiter (BRE); 
Ryan Tennyson (CIAT).

The selection process was fair and represents the industry today, it highlights the current lack of diversity and it is a key issue we want to bring to the foreground.– Neil Thompson ICIOB

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