Jeremy Till

30% pledge

I am not sure which particular event drove me to it, but I have decided to only accept invitations to events/series/conferences that have at least 30% female representation. My bile was raised by the launch of the Design Council/CABE "Design Summit" in which sixteen men were given an individual platform, and two women a sofa to have a conversation on. So homely. The webpage is a classic of gender semiotics. Just look at those hands.

Then I was invited to comment on the London riots by the Architects Journal, and was dismayed to find all the other commentators were white men like me (but this was later dealt with, though the Building Design online debate on the riots was 100% male). Then there was the judging panel for the 2011 BD Carbuncle Cup: all white men. Then Sarah (Wigglesworth) pointed me towards an article that described how less than 15% of Wikipedia editors are women. Finally I was invited to lecture at the Martin Centre in Cambridge, and saw that last year not one woman lectured there. So I took it out on the organisers of the series at the Martin Centre, and demanded an explanation, which they responded to openly and positively. However, they noted that the lecture series is based on recommendations from lecturers and students, and herein lies the problem, because these recommendations will be based on what they have seen, and what they have seen will be male dominated, and so the situation is endlessly perpetuated. My pledge is a tiny gesture to break the cycle. It is also probably a form of either professional suicide or clever self-protection, because many architectural events and collections do not meet this threshold, so invitations will probably dry up.

Of course the response from organisers will be: But we have to get the best, and the best are men. This is pathetic. What constitutes "the best"? Answer: a certain form of received knowledge, and because of the course of habit, this is a male dominated discourse. So my call is just to try a bit harder, and use your imagination. The best campaign I know on this issue is that of the Feminist Philosophers and their Gendered Conference Campaign, including their useful hints to organisers about how to try harder. But I think it would be useful too if other men took my pledge, because calls from women may be dismissed by closet sexists as self-serving, and we all need to do something to address the balance. Any other boys who want to join in, then email me and I will list you here.

Why 30%, I hear you ask? Why not 50%? I am just being deeply practical and probably not idealist enough. 25% is too easy (one in four), 30% sounds better. Sarah agrees. It would rule out the majority of UK architecture lecture series as they stand.