How to put sex into planning

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How to put sex into planning

We all use stereotypes to pigeon-hole people. Scientists (like me) have white coats (I don’t) as do psychiatrists. Doctors have stethoscopes even if they seldom use them. Accountants have pin-striped suits.

And what of planners? It has an image problem. There is a misconception that it is a world inhabited by the male, pale and stale (MPS).

If you look at any of the photographs from MIPIM, this only serves to reinforce that image of the world of property and development.

The image of the planner is of grey old farts poring over blueprints (remember them?) on a drawing board (and them?) in a cramped office (still with us) in a municipal building (ditto) that’s looks like a car park.

Why are medical schools overwhelmed with applicants to spend their lives up in blood and gore? (Come to think of it, I cannot remember that last time a GP even touched me so maybe that explains it.)

And pharmacy? Who wants to spend five years to learn how to sell face cream and other snake oils while counting pills?

So how can we attract young people to consider planning as a career?

When a company wants to improve sales, it will often look to rebrand it. Remember Datsun. It’s been Nissan for years. Google was originally called BackRub and Accenture was known as Andersen Consulting before the scandals erupted.

So how about planning? We have to instil a sense of excitement and adventure into the profession. Planners shape the future – now there’s an exciting thought.

So, how about (roll of drums): SOCIAL ENGINEERING. Already I can see proud mothers proclaiming to her neighbours: ‘she’s a social engineer with the district council’.

But the title also reflects much more accurately the work. Social Engineers have huge power to define communities, much more than, say, architects or civil engineers.

The real crisis in the planning or, social engineering system, as we will now call it is the lack of new entrants into the universities to study it.

So to attract them, we have to, in the words of Alastair Campbell, ‘sex it up’.

Have a good weekend.

Tom Curtin