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

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.

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  1. Well said Sarah!

    Our vision for the industry must go way “beyond BIM” now. Our industry needs to step change in so many areas. How much longer will we continue to accept a less than adequate status quo. We are killing the planet, people, and also stifling the opportunity of this and the next generations to reach and fulfil their true potential.

    Through the BIM Regions we want to help the industry transition to new levels of performance, into the digital age, to become a leading player in the Digital Information Economy, on the global stage.

    Our door is always open, and the clock is ticking!

    John Eynon
    Joint Chair BIM Regions

  2. While in an ideal world there would be a natural 50/50 gender split, I can appreciate this does not happen in the real world. But will pressure to get a 50/50 gender split complicate the issue? Isn’t BIM complicated enough?
    Will “forcing” a gender split prevent good people being excluded purely based on their gender?
    I’d rather see more positive ways to attract females to BIM and building in general rather than forced gender quotas, as a box ticking exercise.

  3. Surely it for the people of any democratic country to best decide for themselves as to what extent they wish to be or not to be included ,whether they be male or female,in any Industry or profession they so choose of their very own accord! Certainly we go all out to promote and advertise our achievements! However after that it always remains the individual’s sole democratic choice to become or not to become part of us irrespective of any other considerations!

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