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March 08, 2021

Women in Planning Celebrate International Women’s Day 2021

The overall desire to discuss women in the planning profession has made the annual Lakeland District International Women’s Day (IWD) events successful. The first event came after a young planner asked me why there weren’t many women planners included in OPPI panel events and I set out to change that. What excites me most about telling this story now, is the fact that the young planner has since joined me and the planning team at the City of Barrie - which proves that going to OPPI events is good for your career!
It likely comes as no surprise to everyone that the Lakeland District IWD 2020 event got postponed, and was then ultimately cancelled. This year, even when we all may be feeling a little "zoomed out," we have tackled planning the virtual IWD 2021 event with vigor and enthusiasm, basking in the knowledge that we can have this discussion with people from across the province.
Being a woman in the field of professional planning, learning and developing around how I might succeed in this profession has long been a topic of interest for me, and I suspect others. But a scoped view of our profession, for example comparing the number of male and female planners, doesn’t articulate the reality that the development industry does tend to be less diverse (think engineers, architects, builders). So, navigating the nuances of the profession and the industry is required for even for the most experienced professional planners, let alone the new planners joining the profession each year.
While discussions about women in the workplace often focus on glass ceilings, I can’t say that has been my experience. As a self-described mid-career professional, I can rhyme off the names of many great women planners that have gone before me, and those that are up-and-coming. The glass ceiling in our profession was smashed long before I came along.
I see the focus for advancing women in the planning profession as a purposeful alteration of the mentality that women in the workforce must be in constant competition with each other (no matter the profession). The exact opposite of a single woman breaking the glass ceiling, I think of a large supportive net of professionals helping and bolstering each other.  
Can we remember those games we played as kids where we lifted our classmates up by holding the ends of a parachute? (Let’s take a moment to consider how likely it is that this would still be a permitted activity!) That’s what I think about when I think about women in planning. Planning is collaborative by nature and any of our successes, are accomplished together rather than individually, regardless of gender.
Each year the IWD theme can mean different things to different people. The 2021 theme is #ChooseToChallenge. We all know that 2020 challenged us all – and not quite by choice! But the theme is a reminder that having a choice at all – about anything – is a privilege.

It’s not too late to register for this year’s virtual IWD 2021 event scheduled on Thursday, March 11 from 12 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. Registration is open until Wednesday March 10.
Join OPPI and Kimberly Snider from PeopleBrain. Kimberly is a thought-leader and facilitator who’s on a mission to help women “fill up their cup” with overflowing joy, peace and unstoppable energy to accomplish their goals, unapologetically. Kimberly is going to help us all refuel our courage and to support each other while doing it, all for the betterment of moving forward in our lives and careers. Hope to “see” you there!

Women planners at work