Architecture’s gender debate

Dame and Queen

Zaha Hadid: DBE by royally appointed title, ‘queen of the curve’ as described by the Guardian, a true inspiration to the architectural field worldwide. Taken from us last year at the age of 65, she left a legacy literally anyone in the profession would be exceptionally proud to have achieved in a lifetime. At the time of her death, Zaha Hadid Architects was the fastest growing practice of its kind in the UK. So why does the question of gender gap in architecture even exist? Is there evidence to support the theory that a male-dominated industry effectively drew a glass ceiling into the design of architecture? If so then surely now we are heading in the right direction when it comes to gender equality, aren’t we?

The polls are in

In February 2016, The Architectural Review published the results of the 2016 Women in Architecture Survey.

Salary figures suggest that the gap broadens between men and women as seniority increases. Women are paid £55,000 less than men at director, partner and principal level – a figure that has risen by £42,000 in the last two years. Female architectural assistants are paid £1,800 less than men doing the same job, project architects £3,000 less, associates £2,000 less, and female directors were underpaid by £12,700.

Across all levels of practice women were in agreement that their place in the architecture world had yet to be accepted. Just seven per cent of architectural assistants said the building industry had accepted the role of female architects.

The poll found that almost 30 per cent of all women surveyed felt they weren’t offered the same career progression as men. As seniority increases to associate level,  just half of female respondents reported a good work/life balance and just 45 per cent of those at associate director level think the balance is right. For directors and partners or principals this figure improves marginally to 55 per cent and 52 per cent, respectively.

An equal contributor to the poll, The Architects Journal revealed, “[the poll] paints a picture of a profession where a glass ceiling is firmly in place; women are penalised for wanting a family, and take the lion’s share of responsibility for the care of dependents; and sexual discrimination and bullying are rife.

Our opinion…

A contributor to the Financial Times’ article on architecture’s glass ceiling suggested, “Maybe we should get more women into Mining, or Offshore-drilling, or Fishing the North Atlantic… They’re all male-dominated industries, too…”. This point of view is neither here nor there as far as we are concerned as it has exaggerated and strayed from the issue.

Architecture shouldn’t and should never have been depicted as a ‘male-dominated industry’. Our industry, if we are to trust the evidence presented, must change in order to provide the same opportunities to everyone, regardless of gender.

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