Through research, discussions and essays from a variety of resources, Parlour: Women, Equity, Architecture is a platform, a coach, and an inspiration that is available to women worldwide in an effort to bridge the gender gap that exist in the historically male dominant profession of architecture. Launched by a team of scholars led by Dr. Naomi Stead from The University of Queensland and developed and edited by Justine Clark from The University of Melbourne, this website is relevant to all members of the profession, women and men, in all parts of the world. It highlights the reasons why gender gaps are felt as in “implicit bias” whether in pay scale or upward mobility, even though discrimination and prejudices may not be explicit. In this regard, the website and its collection of resources, aims to create a forum for a dialogue about the actual and perceived barriers that empowers women to challenge the social structure that fosters this proven under-representation, whether it is due to professional practices and “gendered behavioral practices” or pressures that women feel to leave the profession at a much higher rate than men.
More after the break.
The research behind Parlour is led by Dr. Stead and funded through an Australian Reseby Linkage Grant - an Australian Research Council. Nine scholars, four universities and five linkage partners compile data through statistics, interviews and participant observations. The outcome of this research will conclude with a draft for an Equity and Diversity Policy, publications and information provided through the website.
With more than 40 participants and contributors, Parlour has already compiled a broad range of essays that address both the professional and personal concerns of women in architecture. They confront such topics as diversity within the workplace, the balance of work and life, and “architecture and motherhood“. Using case studies of practices where women take on leadership positions, or practices that have a significant gender diversity, Parlour brings insight into the dynamics of the workplace environment and how women perceive their roles.
Because the site is structured as a forum, visitors are welcome to comment and share their own experiences, broadening the conversation and challenging the hazy middle ground between actual and perceived barriers. The conversation is decidedly two-way. Women are encouraged to participate, offer opinions and become an integral part to the research, as the survey suggests, asking “Where do all the women go?”. Looking at statistics even sparks a discussion over what the numbers indicate. For example, “why are the numbers of registered female architects disproportionate to the number of female graduates from architecture school, and why does that number fall behind the numbers of registered architects that are men?” was a popular topic, and one that Dr. Stead and her fellow scholars and researchers are delving into through this organization.
The research is set up to create these responses from the community, question the data and hypothesize on reasons behind the trends. Open discussions such as these bring about the “social change” that Dr. Stead is looking for. First we must be aware of the trends, then understand the reasons why, and finally address the ways to fix the inequities in the profession.
The website and organization is also an information mentor and connects women to important organizations, like A.MUSE, to create a network where women can find support and encouragement, have the opportunity to share their experiences and find mentors or mentor others. This creates an open environment where the actual or perceived barriers can be discussed: whether it is an issue of the workplace between colleagues or employers or whether there are personal sentiments about achievements and opportunities. Parlour may be based in Australia, but it is an international open source that touches on the profession as a whole. Throughout the website there are opportunities to get involved, which makes the content and the agenda much more accessible.