Restaurant and Bar Design Awards commits to increasing jury diversity

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Restaurant and Bar Design Awards commits to "mindfully" increasing diversity of next year's jury

The founder of the Restaurant and Bar Design Awards has vowed to increase the number of women on its jury, and has suspended a member of staff after a backlash against its "shocking" gender balance.

Founder Marco Rebora acted after employee Damian Crook took to Instagram to attack critics of the awards, which has just four female jurors out of 45.

"In the light of light of these comments and the increased awareness of gender and cultural diversity on judging panels we have committed to mindfully increasing the diversity on next year's panel and in future," Rebora said.

He added that Crook has been suspended pending disciplinary action for his comments, which Rebora said did not reflect the views of the organisation.

Rebora, who founded the awards 10 years ago, called on Dezeen readers to suggest women who could act as jurors in future.

"We realise that this year's Restaurant & Bar Design Awards panel has a low number of women present," he told Dezeen. "It was never our intention. We are open to suggestions from Dezeen or any other influential sources for highly influential judges for future panels."

Crook made the comments in response to 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".

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

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

"Design is a business," replied 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."

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

The annual Restaurant and Bar Design Awards recognise the designers behind hospitality projects. Past jury members have included Thomas HeatherwickFaye ToogoodWallpaper*' magazine's Tony Chambers and Julia Peyton-Jones.

This jury for next year's programme, which works out at 91 per cent male and just nine per cent female, inevitably prompted a negative response – and its announcement came at a time when gender diversity is a much-discussed topic across the architecture and design industries.

As a result, many events and practices have come under fire for their representation of women.

Last month, publisher and events company Media 10 attracted heavy criticism from architects and industry figures for the presence 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.

Also last month, a survey by Dezeen revealed a severe gender imbalance across the world's biggest architecture firms – described by industry figures as "shocking".

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.