Decoding Design

Why are only 20 percent of registered architects women?

Posting in Architecture

The results of the Women in Architecture survey, published by The Architects' Journal, shed light on the challenges female architects face.

The British Architects' Journal published results of their first Women in Architecture survey in the Women in Practice issue. The female focused issue examines gender issues and campaigns for the equal treatment of women in the profession.

About 700 women answered the survey that brought to light four main issues.

Pay

47% of the respondents believe males earn more for doing the same work
35% believe the current economic climate will result in less equal pay
One respondent noted:

The recession will have a greater impact on women – the profession finds it difficult to accommodate part-time working, a much more important issue for women with young children.

Children

51% of the respondents said they had no difficulty resuming their career after having children

but 80% responded that having children put women at a disadvantage
The time when a designer has accumulated enough work hours to qualify for the architectural registration exam is often when many women consider starting families. And returning from maternity leave for one of few available part-time positions puts the primary child caretaker, still mostly women, at a disadvantage when seeking project management roles that require substantial working time.


Discrimination
63% have suffered sexual discrimination (including inappropriate comments or being treated differently because of gender) in their career
Most of the discrimination happens on the construction site and not as much within the architectural office.


Architecture as a male profession

61% believe the building industry does not accept the authority of the female architect
55% think there are not as many opportunities for women as there are for men

Ann-Marie Corvin, one of the authors of the survey and results, explains:

The ‘practical work’ and being ‘a lead architect on site’ is something that more women would like to experience, but survey responses suggest that especially for those who work part-time, this still isn’t an option. This might explain why most (55 per cent) felt that there are currently not as many opportunities for women as there are for men in architecture.

In both the United Kingdom and the United States, about 40 percent of all architecture students are female and while that 40% graduate from architecture programs and work in the profession after school, most don't stay in the profession. Only 20 percent of British registered architects are women, and in the United States, only 16 percent are women. Some of the women who leave architecture take their considerable skills to other jobs and careers that are more flexible.

The Architects' Journal survey is part of a larger campaign to raise the status of women in architecture and to stop the female brain drain. Although published for a British audience, the results of the survey point out major issues that apply to the profession globally.

Sun Kim

Contributing Editor

Contributing Editor Sun Joo Kim is an architect and creative consultant based in Boston. Her projects include design and master planning of museums, public institutions, hospitals, and university buildings across the U.S. She holds a degree from Carnegie Mellon University and is a member of the U.S. Green Building Council. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure