Today, in honor of International Women's Day, we want to take a look at one of the most pressing issues facing architecture today: the lack of women architects. Articles abound about the what of gender inequality in architecture - the facts and figures that reveal the extraordinary gender gap that exists in the profession (in the UK, for example, only 21% of architects are women, and they earn 25% less than their male counterparts) - but strikingly few discuss the how of lessening that gender gap.
Read the opinions of two prominent female architects, and provide your own, after the break...
In her article for the Architect's Journal, architect Yasmin Shariff notes that the problem is not with bars to education - indeed many architecture programs have more women enrolled than men - but rather with retaining women " in their mid-careers after they have devoted half their lives to architecture." Sharriff suggests that a major cultural change is needed (like those which occurred in the legal and medical professions, which now have almost equal gender representation): "if [architectural firms] are forced to look at the figures in relation to pay, position and gender the inequalities will be self-evident. If these figures were then used to influence selection criteria the gender gap may close up very quickly."
Principal at SOSHL and co-founder of MASS Design Group, Marika Shioiri-Clark told me in an e-mail that she considers the scheduling expected of young architects to be an obvious factor: "This sounds a bit old fashioned, but I think there are definitely women who choose to leave the profession or scale back their work when they have children. [...] I'm not sure how you would do this, but I believe that as women slowly become principals of more firms, this kind of scheduling will slowly change. The other thing [...] is the fact that architecture still feels, to a large extent, like an old school boys club. I wonder what kind of impact you could create in the profession by creating a widespread organization for female architects who supported each other, referred each other for projects etc. Little organizations like this already exist, but nothing on an accepted national scale."
Do you agree? What do you think is the most important thing that the profession must do to lessen the gap and retain more women in the profession? Decrease the number of long, inflexible hours? Increase networking between women? Increase pay? Or perhaps it's a more qualitative change, of shifting the architectural culture to being less paternalistic or macho? We'd love to get your comments, ArchDaily readers, so we can hopefully start turning the conversation to action.