Our colleague Cora Kwiatkowski shares her thoughts today to mark International Women’s Day and help #breakthebias #IWD #IWD2022
The construction industry is without doubt high-pressured with a lot at stake – programme, budget – and ultimately the success of places and spaces that we create for people for years to come. Projects become more and more complex with bigger teams involved. We therefore need to make a lot of decisions quickly – and this is where our brains have a natural tendency to simplify information which not only applies to our work but the people we work with. Many behaviours and attitudes arise from, are influenced by and depend on mental shortcuts and categorising people into stereotypes without even realising it.
Bias is everywhere: gender, age, origin, accent - even height and beauty. We all need to keep an open mind and check ourselves to step back from preconceptions, even if it takes more effort.
Although it is now more widely acknowledged and better understood, our industry still has a long way to go when it comes to bias. Perceptions are very hard to shift. Recognising achievements and respecting everyone for their contribution and personality in this mostly white middle-aged male dominated industry will help to change the status quo – it should become normal to see women and people of colour in strategic roles, leading companies as well as high-profile projects, bringing the industry forward as a whole. And when we meet them, let’s lift them up together and make them even more visible.
Looking at my own work, I couldn’t have succeeded alone in any of the amazing projects I designed, it needed the support of a whole team to make it all happen based on mutual respect, seeing the ‘real person’ rather than the stereotype, communication and teamwork – valuing everyone’s contribution. Creating long-term relationships and a network of support not only makes projects more fun but enables honest conversations so potential obstacles can be overcome more easily. It feels definitely easier to do that in a multi-facetted environment such as higher education where there is already more diversity among designers, clients and end users alike.
Single perspectives don’t give rise to innovation. One person doesn’t have all the answers. Not all of us think the same way. Different perspectives and ideas accelerate creative problem solving. Let’s not be lazy and narrow in our thoughts but open and inclusive so that we all benefit!
Cora Kwiatkowski is a Divisional Director at Stride Treglown and a DCFW Commissioner.