Pledge to push women's profile

Promise to improve the profile of women in landscaping made by new member of BALI board.

Pattison: elected to BALI board - image: © Janine Pattison Studio
Pattison: elected to BALI board - image: © Janine Pattison Studio

New BALI board member Janine Pattison has pledged to address the profile of women in landscaping and garden design.

She said that while women are well represented in the industry they are less visible at high-profile events such as the RHS Chelsea Flower Show and at conferences.

Speaking to HW at a landscaping event, where she said she was disappointed there were only male speakers, she also pledged to use her role with BALI to "get ladies into landscaping".

She cited Chelsea as an example. "To get a female designer on main avenue, it doesn't happen that much. There was only Charlotte Rowe this year." But she added that there were a lot of women helping to build gardens at the show.

"I don't think it's an issue of quality," she said of Chelsea. "The issue is that a lot of female garden designers have a lot of competing needs in their lives, such as a family. It's harder to have the time available to run a full-time practice like I do. It's very hard putting in 100 hours a week to build a garden at Chelsea."

Pattison was elected to the BALI board at its AGM, held at IoG Saltex last month. BALI has 45 garden design and 725 contractor and affiliate member companies, but does not collect demographic data on its members.

The Society of Garden Designers (SGD) has 717 female and 313 male members. The Landscape Institute has 3,287 male and 2,806 female members.

Pattison said she does not advocate positive discrimination, calling it a "slippery slope". She added: "Chelsea is about quality. But could there be some encouragement, some mentoring?"

Mentoring is central to the BBC2 Designs on Chelsea programme, which it is running with the RHS, where an amateur designer will win the chance to design a Main Avenue garden in Chelsea 2015.

"There are a lot of women in grounds maintenance and soft landscaping," said Pattison. "At Chelsea a lot of the planting is done by female teams but they don't get any recognition, I don't think."

The RHS refused to reveal how many applications to design show gardens from each gender it had received for the 2015 and 2014 shows.

A representative said: "Last year and this year there have been fewer female designers submitting show garden applications. As with their male equivalents, for many years a number of female designers have created fantastic award-winning gardens (see box).

"Only the very best designs make it to RHS Chelsea, so we select the designers according to their quality submissions. We, of course, believe there's equal talent among both sexes and we'd love to have more women submit designs for the 2016 RHS Chelsea Flower Show."

SGD chair Juliet Sargeant said: "It would be great to see more women contractors on site. The sector is very male-dominated. I think it's just a historical thing and it's not an issue that's really been discussed. It might simply be that the landscape industry tends to move 50 years behind anything else."

Chelsea designers

Show gardens designed by women:

2011 Bunny Guinness, Ann-Marie Powell, Marney Hall, Sarah Eberle.

2012 Sarah Price, Jo Thompson, Patricia Fox, Jihae Hwang.

2013 Jo Thompson, Jinny Blom, Marie-Louise Agius (with Michael Balston), Kate Gould.

2014 Charlotte Rowe, Susannah Hunter and Catherine MacDonald, Nicole Fischer (with Daniel Auderset).

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