Time has flown by, and unbelievably I have been working at Conran and Partners for over 20 years. When I first joined back in 2002, what struck me was that there were more women in the practice than I had expected. My interviews had been with the female Finance Director, back in the early noughties it was a welcome surprise to see a woman in this position.
Prior to working at Conran and Partners I worked in publishing, the editor and publisher were both strong inspirational women and this became my expectation for what I would hope to see in the future. On joining Conran and Partners I had not expected this female balance to continue, the expectation in the world of architecture, and to a slightly lesser extent interior design, being that it would be male dominated. Happily this was not the case.
I genuinely feel that this is a balance which has naturally evolved, which surely has to be the best way. Terence’s influence would have had a great deal to do with this, he never differentiated between women and men, if he was working with someone who was talented, this is what mattered most to him. This openminded mentality has filtered down through the practice over the decades and helped shape us to become the balanced studio that we are today. For as long as I can remember, we have always had a higher proportion of women, with the current split at about 64:36. We are also in the rare position of having an equal split on our board of directors.
As we know, this unbiased approach has not been widespread in our industry. Going back 20 years ago, colleagues remember being the only woman in the room at meetings. In recent years this balance has shifted for the better and we now find that it is common for meetings to not only have more women in but also be led by them.
Of course one of the challenges that continues to face women who have chosen to have a family is whether they are able to pursue their career. For me thankfully this has been possible, however this was only really due to the support and flexibility the practice has given me over the years. We pride ourselves on going out of our way to support mothers returning to work after maternity leave and beyond. It is so important that women have the choice to decide whether to resume and continue to build their careers whilst raising a family. It is important to mention that we also give this same support to fathers, we have had many dads over the years work flexibly to accommodate the unpredictability of raising young children.
Looking to the future for our industry, whilst there has clearly been a positive shift in equality for women, there is still room for improvement. It does feel like the tide has turned and that this will continue if we all work together towards a collective goal of equality.
As part of looking forward, it should not be forgotten that there are other equality and diversity balances that need to be addressed in our industry, and as a practice we are focusing on channelling our fair and open spirit to this.