Careers advice: Diversity - making an impact

Written by: Chrysta Poppitt
Published on: 27 Mar 2017


If you belong to an underrepresented group it can often feel quite daunting to understand how you could make your mark personally and professionally.  

But diversity presents an opportunity for people to take ownership, develop and grow within organisations and brings increased creativity, innovation and productivity to the workplace.    

For companies or other organisations operating in the planning sector, a key objective is normally a commitment to shape better places, and so the inclusion of a diverse range of people can only help to realise this goal.  

As my colleague - assistant planner Claire Hawkes - says, the planning profession is committed to promoting diversity, and the Royal Town Planning Institute’s (RTPI) Code of Conduct requires professional planners to not discriminate on the grounds of race, sex and sexual orientation, creed, religion, disability or age, and there is a requirement to seek to eliminate such discrimination by others and to promote equality of opportunity.  

“Despite this commitment, there remains more that could be done within the planning industry to promote the awareness of diversity and to take steps to even the playing field,” says Claire.

“We can all benefit from greater diversity, whatever group we identify with; inclusion for all allows for more ideas from wider perspectives.”  

For planners from under-represented groups, the first hurdle to overcome is to be comfortable being yourself at work and being accepted for who you are. One way to approach this is to consider how you could educate and work with key stakeholders to raise the profile and positive benefits of greater diversity within your organisation.    

Here are some tips to consider:

  • It all starts with an idea: think about how you might like to make a contribution and what you really care about and why? If you care enough about something others will see, hear and feel your energy and you will make it happen in an authentic way
  • Be interested: Consider your company’s approach to inclusion and diversity. If you are not currently working and are seeking a new role, conduct research on companies and their approach to diversity. Ask about inclusion and diversity during the recruitment process.  Clear vision: be clear about what you are aiming for and share your vision with others around you.  
  • Support network: take soundings from people you trust internally and externally and ask for feedback – engaging others is fundamental and feedback supports personal development.  Role models: there are many people within our industry who have taken an initial idea and turned it into a vision which has been extremely successful. The work of groups such as Planning Out and Women in Planning has started out in this way.  
  • Networking: make connections and contacts within the profession and see how other people make a difference, for example through networks such as Stonewall, Women in Property and Young Planners.  
  • Deliver on your commitments: if you make commitments to others and to yourself make sure you deliver and ask for help or support from others when required.  
  • Storytelling: think about your experience and how you will tell it to others in a meaningful way – people remember a good story.

As Charlotte Palmer, a planner in our Birmingham office who is from an ethnic minority background, states: “I am proud to be a member of the RTPI and I am also proud to be of Jamaican descent. The RTPI seeks to promote diversity and it is now up to its respective members to reiterate these aspirations and drive change.”  

Chrysta Poppitt is senior director of HR at consultancy Turley

Picture shows (l-r) Turley's Alison Maguire, Beth Lambourne, Charlotte Palmer, Fareeda Ahmed, Amber Morley and Fiona Flaherty.