STRONG WOMEN. STRONG PLACES. | Gender Diversity in Urban Planning

When Emily Phillis was appointed Professional Development Chair of the City and Regional Planning Student Association (CRPSA) last year, her primary responsibility was to plan events to prepare students to enter the workforce. Fast-forward to Strong Women. Strong Places, an event held this February at the Ohio Union that celebrated the strengths and diverse perspectives women bring to the planning field. “I envisioned using the opportunity to connect women planners and students in a safe, welcoming environment where mentorship, leadership and collaboration could take place,” explained Phillis, a graduate student in city and regional planning at the Knowlton School.

Hosted by CRPSA and the Central Ohio Section of the American Planning Association's Ohio Chapter, the gathering featured a panel discussion that explored ways to strengthen equity and the impact of gender in the work of creating safe, vibrant and healthy places. “The panel discussion allowed us to hear from five diverse voices in the planning field in Central Ohio,” stated City and Regional Planning graduate student and event co-organizer Sarah Lilly. “Those five women had such a range of experience and stories that I think everyone found relatable.” 

Grouping their responses around the topics of women-focused challenges, opportunities and mentorship in the planning field, the panelists included: Moderator Arin Blair, a Planner at MKSK; Erin Moriarty, Planner and Project Manager with ms consultants; Myia Batie, Coordinator of Policy and Programs at Ohio Capital Corporation for Housing; Megha Parekh Sinha, a Senior Associate with NBBJ; and Kim Burton, President of Burton Planning Services and Associate Professor of Practice at the Knowlton School.    

“I am hopeful that attendees were comforted in their common challenges and inspired by their common resilience, compassion and dedication to the field of urban planning,” reflected Phillis. “Women planners bring a unique perspective to the betterment of cities and I hope attendees of all sexes and professions were encouraged to broaden and challenge the views they bring to their work.” Lilly added that she hoped this event empowered attendees to be their own advocate in the workplace and to advocate for women and other marginalized groups in the planning profession.

Following the event, which featured a Q & A session with the audience, city and regional planning major Emily Long added, “During the event, our dialogue really reinforced how valuable it is in decision making to have all voices involved, whether this is represented in our work settings or the communities we work with.”

Sponsors of the event included Burton Planning Services, Designing Local, MKSK, ms consultants, inc., planning NEXT, and OHM.