Comment: Sarah Rock - Why we are pushing for 50/50 gender split at BIM Regions

10 February 2016 | By Sarah Rock, Herbert Smith Freehills

Sarah Rock, BIM Regions diversity champion and associate at global law firm Herbert Smith Freehills, responds to the debate over the 50:50 gender target for BIM Champions.

The BIM Regions vision goes beyond BIM, it is a vision for a world class, digitally enabled industry. The aim is to assist in creating a respected, valued, inclusive and diverse industry which gives everyone something to be proud of or something to aspire to.

We reflected on the gender split of other steering groups within the BIM community and looked to send out a very different message to what is currently in existence. In setting the target (and it is just that – a target) of a 50/50 gender split at the Champions level the core values and criteria for becoming a Champion have not altered. Many of the BIM Regions groups already have more than two Champions and there is no limit to the numbers.

The Champions role is voluntary and takes real effort, commitment and a drive to transform our industry. There will be no discrimination of any kind. There will be no circumstances under which someone who wants to be a Champion and displays the core values for being a Champion would be refused on grounds of any protected characteristic.

Further, this is not a box-ticking exercise. At the BIM Regions we have voluntarily set out to try to level the playing field, there are no sanctions for failing to do so, this is not a quota. There are other approaches for encouraging applications to the BIM Champion role, which we will look at and we are prepared to be flexible in our pursuit of inclusion and diversity. Anonymising data is one option – however, if that leads to poor gender splits then perhaps the questions being asked may have an unconscious bias to start with.

We are merely trying to take a thought leadership position on what our industry could and should look like. Our approach to equality is more than just adhering to legislation, it is a vital part of ensuring that our industry is innovative, effective and inspirational. We see equality as a tool for improvement and have a plan of action to take positive steps to ensure diverse representation occurs at all levels of our network.

We are currently looking at other strands of inclusion and diversity and ways in which the network can better reflect today’s society. The intention is not to force any targets or aspirations through for the sake of it, merely to open the doors for whoever is out there to stand up and lead the industry forward should they wish to.

Quality of work is paramount but if the people coming through in our industry do not offer a representation that reflects society we need to assess why that is and open up avenues for the best talent to make their way, no matter who they are.