Women Architects: Where Are They Today ?

Gender equality is still an issue today in the architecture industry. “Women in Architecture” debate was held on the 2nd of June at Grimshaw’s London office in order to question the statue of female architects. Caroline Cole, consultant at Colander Associates and speaker at the discussion panel said: “It never occurred to me that gender might be an issue in terms of developing the creativity I wanted to do.” She outlines that, today, it is stressing that the statue of women architects have not change in thirty years.

Women in Architecture: What's holding us back - Grimshaw

Women in Architecture: What’s holding us back – Grimshaw

After the very sad death of the most visionary woman in the industry, Zaha Hadid, the issue has never been so strong. She had inspired many, imposing her genius and style in a male dominated domain. Even though she was the first woman to win the Pritzker Architecture Prize, possibly opening a door to gender equality, other talented female architects are having a hard time in order to stand out in the industry.

Despina Stratigakos, historian and writer interested in the intersections of architecture and power, published in spring 2016 a novel called Where Are the Women Architects. In the introduction of the book, she writes: “ In the past few years, a chorus of voices has begun to ask why women, who first began studying architecture 140 years ago, continue to struggle to gain a foothold in the pro- fession. Despite women’s increasing enrollments in architecture schools since the 1980s, their numbers in practice have flatlined.” This phenomenon restrains women’s attempt to become the leaders of their generation.

The architect Zaha Hadid in her London office in 1985.

The architect Zaha Hadid in her London office in 1985.

Besides books and discussions, studies have been held in order to justify the issue. The Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture (ACSA), conducted an ongoing project examining architectural education in relationship to demographics, higher education, the profession, and the economy. In one of their data visualisation (see map below), they evaluated ‘Gender in Architecture School Leadership’ in the United Stated. In every regions of the country, the percentage of women is inferior to men, with a total number of 563 males compare to only 235 females and a ratio of 12 men to every 5 women.

Gender in Architecture School Leadership - ACSA

Gender in Architecture School Leadership – ACSA

However, their statue is evolving in the UK. On the 3rd of June, The Architects’ Journal, which provides on a daily basis in-depth news analysis and insight into issues that are affecting the industry, conducted their own study in the UK, showing there has been a rise of women employed in the industry between 2013 and 2016 (see chart below). Even though architecture remains a male dominated industry, we can see a slightly important progression, notably with the UK’s biggest firms now collectively employing 2,060 women.

Women and men employed in AJ100 practices between 2013 and 2016 - Architects' Journal AJ100

Women and men employed in AJ100 practices between 2013 and 2016

Solutions still needs to be found in order to redress the gender imbalance, concerning employment and salary. While the percentage of female architects remains low, the progression positively influences ambitious female architects.

Words: Julia Milet

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