Dezeen Magazine

Restaurant and Bar Design Awards employee defends "stale, male, pale" jury

An employee of an international design awards programme has hit out at critics of its overwhelmingly male jury, accusing a female designer of highlighting the issue out of spite for not being shortlisted.

Damien Crook, who works at the Restaurant and Bar Design Awards, took to social media to defend the organisation's choice to employ 41 men and just four women on its jury, which designer Emma Maxwell described as "shocking".

"Nothing to do with the fact you didn't make the shortlist last year then and spit your dummy out again huh? x," Crook replied.

Maxwell wrote her comment on Instagram after the awards released details of its jury.

"It's downright shocking," she wrote. "Massive facepalm to backward thinking. Enough reason to withdraw support in 2018".

The spat took place in the comments of an Instagram post by design journalist Max Fraser.

Fraser had shared a screenshot of the jury announcement, which showed the four female members dispersed amongst the 41 men, along with the caption "#shameonyou".

"Design is a business," commented Maxwell. "It's often downright tough. Awards are also a tough business. There's a LOT of awards organisations out there vying for entry money."

"Unfortunately, it appears as if your particular organisation has chosen to take a misogynistic path for 2018," she continued. "Not reflective of the current environment or thinking, or demographic or century. Your comment was uncalled for, insensitive and crass."

Jury for awards programme described as "stale, male, pale"

Others wading in on the debate described it as "another white sausage fest" and the jury as "stale, male, pale".

But Crook, whose social media profile lists him an executive at the awards programme, continued to defend the jury's gender makeup.

"I fully understand it's tough out there, it is in any industry in this current climate," Crook wrote. "I think the release of next years judging panel on reflection of this post has been looked over in a very wrong way."

"We have included more judges than ever as it's our 10-year anniversary, as for the background of each judge I think if Mr Fraser looked in more detail as to the nationality of the judges he would find that every corner of the globe has been included so to bring race into the equation is highly uncalled for."

"I guess the fact that on the panel for the product awards which is a smaller panel that includes 8 females had not been noted," he continued.

But this prompted the response from Fraser: "You're right, a stellar international line up. No women in those countries?"

The annual Restaurant and Bar Design Awards, now in its 10th year, recognises the designers behind hospitality projects.

Past jury members have included Thomas Heatherwick, Faye Toogood, Wallpaper*' magazine's Tony Chambers and Julia Peyton-Jones.

Jury unveiled at a time where gender representation is a key topic

The jury for 2018's event, which works out at 91 per cent male and just 9 per cent female, was announced at a time where gender representation across the industry is under much scrutiny.

Last month, a survey by Dezeen revealed a severe gender imbalance across the world's biggest architecture firms.

The survey, which looked at the 100 largest firms from around the globe, revealed that only one in 10 senior positions are occupied by women, and that 16 per cent of firms have no women in their management teams.

The findings back official statistics published by the UK government earlier this year, which showed that white men are dominating the creative industries, with women filling less than 40 per cent of jobs in the sector.

Dezeen's survey prompted responses from many leading female architects, including Sadie Morgan – co-founder of dRMM and winner of this year's Stirling Prize – who said she was "disappointed" by the findings.

"My hope is that it shows a lag in the rise of women to the top of our profession rather than a full stop," said Morgan.

The Restaurant and Bar Awards isn't the only industry event to come under fire for its representation of women.

Publisher and events company Media 10 attracted heavy criticism from architects and industry figures for the presense of Vegas-themed promotional models at UK Construction Week in October.

During the show, which took place from 10-12 October, four female actors in "Vegas showgirl" outfits presented awards and posed for photographs with visitors.

In an Opinion piece for Dezeen, columnist Anna Winston argued that the architecture industry has a culture of quietly condoning sexist behaviour in her latest piece written following the Harvey Weinstein scandal.