If planners want to address the impacts of exclusionary planning, historical inequities, and policies that ignore the needs of women and minorities, they must address systemic inequities within the field itself.
Despite their high rate of participation in civic life (more than twice as high as the general population) and strong presence in community meetings and organizations, Black women are still vastly underrepresented in the urban planning field. Until the profession diversifies internally, policy decisions will continue to overlook underrepresented communities.
It's no question that women have made significant gains in the planning profession in recent years, but the growth hasn't been uniform, with the transportation, design, and engineering subfields still skewing heavily toward male planners. While women now make up almost half of the American planning workforce, Black women only comprise 3% of professional planners, and the percentage of planning degrees awarded to Black graduates is stagnant.
At the core of the need for more diverse planning departments is trust. In order to even engage with public processes—often confusing and inaccessible—communities have to feel that their voices will be "championed by trustworthy agents within the system" that are working for their goals.
A good start, writes Lindiwe Rennert, is to recognize the important community-building work that Black women without formal training do. "Black women have been doing planning work without academia accredited planning training since the concept of planning was birthed," she says. Now it's time to value it.
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