March 8, 2021 Joanne John

Celebrating International Women’s Day with BMD Director Laura Bradley

It’s been 10 years since Laura Bradley and her business partner Ryan Murphy set up the award-winning landscape practice Bradley Murphy Design (BMD). 10 years which has seen BMD grow from a couple of laptops set up in the kitchen of Laura’s cottage to a thriving team of 38 landscape architects and ecologists.

For International Women’s Day, Laura discusses the decision to set up BMD, how time has changed the lives of women working within the landscape industry and the future of the industry as a whole.

When and why did you decide to set up BMD?

Following redundancy post the 2008 recession I took the opportunity to take the plunge and persuaded my old colleague Ryan to join me. We were stepping in to the unknown, but it was an exciting time and we worked hard to make it pay off. I’m so proud of the team at BMD and what we’ve achieved so far. We’re doing great things. As we enter our tenth year in business, I’m conscious of a greater responsibility too.

Do you think there is genuine equality for women in the property and construction industry today?

I was lucky to grow up with a fabulous role model of a working mum. She made me believe I could do anything and so sitting in meetings as the only female in the room is something I brushed off as ‘normal’ when I was younger. The balance has definitely improved in the last 15 years, but as a working mum myself, I still notice more the passive discrimination against parents (inevitably affecting more women than men): early meetings and late finishes for instance. As a company we’re actively addressing these issues through flexible working arrangements, encouraging people to work from home and championing online meetings wherever possible.

What has been the biggest challenge or difficulty you’ve faced as a woman in your career?

The biggest challenge for me has been coming back from maternity leave and readjusting to work with two children. The compound effect of a year and half away from the business and having two children under two was really hard. The inevitable mum guilt of not being at home added to the guilt related to not being able to fully commit to the business was constant. Although not diagnosed, looking back I was suffering all the symptoms of post-natal depression. Even now, with my youngest at two and a half, I don’t feel quite as mentally sharp as I was before. But, I’ve come to the realization that while I’m not the person I was before, I don’t have to be; I can be different, more empathetic, wiser, better. A silver lining to Covid has been removing the ‘juggle’ from the day. There’s less rushing around and more quality time both for the girls and for work.

What does the future of landscape architecture look like to you?

Landscape architecture has always been important, but the catastrophe of climate change is intensifying attention on our environment. This is vital if we’re going to have a chance of mitigating climate change. We have the tools to make a difference to the future of the planet, so we have a duty to be proactive about working with our clients to help push for more sustainable, greener development. The last year has helped underline for all of us how important accessible green space is to our health and well-being.  From a commercial perspective we can point to the increased value of homes, urban or rural, that have good access to well designed public spaces too. Our role is important, so I’m optimistic.