It has been such an inspiration this week reading a wide range of articles and accounts detailing the experiences and careers of some truly exceptional women in the workplace.
Fortunately, that trend can continue, as we were lucky enough to sit down with Olafiyin Taiwo to speak about her career to date.
Olafiyin is an extremely passionate and experienced planner, who’s hard work and contribution to Planning has recently been recognised by the RTPI in the form of her recent nomination as a 2021 Woman of Influence. Her story is an inspiring one, and a great insight into the experiences that women have faced in the Town Planning sector.
How did you end up in Planning?
“My career path started in International Development with a focus on urban development. I was working on projects funded by international institutions such as UNICEF, SIDA, and UN-Habitat. The Planning profession is dynamic and transcends the known traditional areas of work. I have worked across public and private sectors, as well as civil society at local, regional, and international levels.”
“As part of my different roles, I have coordinated multidisciplinary and cross-sectoral projects relevant to planning, urban, rural, and regional development such as environmentally friendly market reconstruction, community engagement, socio-economic development, disaster management training, town centre beautification, and urban regeneration among others.”
Is that what you thought you would be doing when you left education?
“My entire career revolves around my core values and commitment to improving the quality of life and experiences of local communities in urban areas. I am doing this through different routes in both paid and voluntary roles.”
“I was also fortunate to grow up among Planners. This allowed me to observe their career paths, connections with other built environment professions and diverse opportunities available to Planners.”
“Interestingly, I’m still in education”
What is your greatest achievement in your career so far?
“I don’t have one greatest achievement. All the projects I have worked on have been gratifying in their own ways and I have worked with incredible Planners, gained noteworthy knowledge and experience.”
“In recent times, the Headway Mentoring Programme launched by the Commonwealth Association of Planners Young Planners network is one of the projects I am proud of. I feel a real sense of achievement because I worked with talented Young Planners from different continents and time zones to make it happen. We had to create a mentoring programme that would reflect the core values of the Commonwealth and the Planning Profession globally.”
“Another one is the opportunity to represent the Institute and CAP in serving as the Co-chair of the UN-Habitat Planners for Climate Action Working Group II on Education and Capacity Building. This opportunity to work with Planners from various continents, cities, sectors and specialisation in building the capacity of Planners to address the climate challenges is worthwhile.”
What’s the biggest problem people in your industry are facing?
I’d prefer to identify some challenges Planners are facing rather than the biggest problem.
“The biased approach to Planning like either a complimentary service or a hindrance to sustainable economic development. Planning is critical to the recovery of any economy and this is even more important now because of the pandemic. Planning must be considered at an early stage and Planners should be strategically involved in order to build back in a truly sustainable way.”
“The negative perception of the Planning profession and Planners particularly Local Authority Planners by a high percentage of the General Public and the media. Planners are one of the most dedicated and multi-talented professionals I know.”
“The Royal Town Planning Institute has started challenging these negative perceptions and is doing a great job at it. “
What piece of advice do you wish you could tell your past self?
“Don’t be afraid to celebrate the small wins and live your dreams! There is no carbon copy of you, therefore enjoy your journey and you are capable beyond measure.”
What would you say to other women looking to start a role in Planning?
“Take the bold step! I have found that multidisciplinary skills and knowledge is critical to building a healthy, safe and sustainable environment. Your skills, knowledge, and experience are relevant.”
“This is the time to make the move. Join the different support networks available such as Women in Planning, BAME Planners Network, Women in Transport to mention a few. They are worthy causes, and great places to find mentors to help you on your journey!”