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There has been much discussion raised about "Why are women leaving Architecture? and more broadly, Why is the profession losing key talent?"  Both women and men practitioners are disillusioned by the myth of work/life balance: Women are grappling with "have it all" expectations of juggling family time with the demands of full-time work.  Men are struggling to support their families solely on an architect's salary and fall back on asking spouses to maintain their jobs. The lack of affordable childcare and high cost of living only magnifies the challenges.  How did we end up in this modern family dilemma? What can we do to improve the situation?

EQxD Get Real: Found - The Missing 32%

by Melissa Daniel

I have a theory that the missing 32% is not really missing. I believe the 32% is actually recorded higher because licensed architects who identify themselves as women choose not to volunteer in architectural surveys, join AIA or be part of any architecture group unless such activities are driven by their employer. The following are the top 5 reasons licensed women architects do not participate in any women architecture related activity:

1. I have no Time/Money.

This seems like a legitimate reason. AIA membership is expensive, and we all understand that family does come first. To participate in the architecture conversation, however, it is not necessary to either join an architecture organization nor spend time traveling to a meeting. Social media is a great way to engage the architecture community. Please note that the key word here is ‘engage’.  Simply creating a twitter account with no profile picture does not count. Get involve in the conversation. Your opinion matters.


2. Underrepresented.

This is not only frustrating but very discouraging. According to the web, Zahid Hadid is the only woman of color who practices architecture. For the licensed women who are on panels discussing women’s issues, neither have my mocha skin tone nor are in my generation. Due to this lack of representation, there’s a broad spectrum of women’s issues that are never discussed including single motherhood and sexual orientation discrimination. Topics like these cannot be discussed if we are not in the room. Let the architecture community know we exist by joining groups like LinkedIn and participate in the conversation. (Make sure you add a profile photo to your LinkedIn account. It is part of personal branding and it establishes trust.)

3. WIA (Women in Architecture)/ WID (Women in Development) is like a Sorority.

Being the newbie in any group is difficult. However, with close knit groups of women, there’s a stereotype of drama. Conversations of male‐bashing or cattiness really do not exist in WIA/WID groups. If they do in any local group, it’s time to get involved and change things. What we as women fail to realize is that the men have their own exclusive groups. It’s the usually the project architect/managers/associates that go to the bar after work while the women go home and tend to their families. It’s usually those men who bond at lunch while you eat at the workstation. They form fraternities and establish strong networks.  Ladies, we do not need to sit in our own islands. Something as simple as inviting the other female co‐worker(s) to lunch can mean all the difference. Remember, this is business.

4. Superwoman.  

The ‘superwoman’ architect has done it all. They conquered the work‐life balance and wonder why we haven’t done the same. The reality is however, they have struggled. Like their male counterparts, the ‘superwoman’ architect tends to have enormous egos and almost never show signs of weakness in public. Events like the EQxD#Hackathon taking place at the AIA National Convention in Atlanta will reveal the ‘superwoman’ architect’s struggles and tools to succeed.

5. "Sucky" Advice.

‘Be the best you can be’, ‘Be confident’, and ‘Work hard’ sounds more like a pep talk than advice. When there’s a serious question about ‘how do you handle a co‐worker when...’ is asked, finding women architects to give ‘real advice’ is difficult because there’s a perception that only superwoman architects exist out there. The best way to find the answers to the questions is to seek out women with similar situations and ask them. The problem is that these women don’t participate. A vicious cycle of the non‐participants seeking advice from other non‐participants. The only other way to find like‐minded women, join WIA/WID groups in your local area, find them on LinkedIn, Facebook, or Twitter. If you’re not having luck there, start your own group (physical or visual). ‘Eat the Whale’ a wise woman once told me.


About Melissa Daniel  @MelissaRDaniel 

Photo credit: D. Phinney

Photo credit: D. Phinney

Former AIA Diversity and Inclusion Council member, Melissa Daniel is passionate about changing the culture of the architecture profession. She spent the past three years as chair of the Women in Architecture Series serving AIA|DC, DCNOMA and AIA|NOVA WIA Committee. She was selected in 2012 for the Emerging Architect Award by AIA|DC, 2013 Young Architect of the year by DCCEAS and 2014 Leading Women under 40 by Maryland’s The Daily Record.


EQxD Get Real - To read more about challenges and resilience from diverse viewpoints, go here.

In a similar spirit of spontaneity of the Archimom's Everyday Moments of Truth blog series, we are excited to bring you EQxD Get Real: True stories of Challenges and Resilience from diverse perspectives of architects and designers. Each day we will feature the stories of each person's challenges in the profession and what they learned from those experiences to inspire action for equitable practice in architecture.