The Missing 32% - Where are the Women Architects?
A curated Bibliography of links to current and relevant articles, blogposts, and published books about the issues concerning equitable Architectural practice
by Alexandra Lange, Metropolis Magazine
“Women are the ghosts of modern architecture, everywhere present, crucial, but strangely invisible,” writes historian Beatriz Colomina in “With, Or Without You,” an essay in the Museum of Modern Art’s 2010 catalog, Modern Women. “Architecture is deeply collaborative, more like moviemaking than visual art, for example. But unlike movies, this is hardly ever acknowledged.”
"The value of the architect, and how architects value themselves, what they are willing to accept, how fees are established—the respect isn’t there.” Raising wages at all levels of the profession would increase diversity and add flexibility: unless architects lean in to clients, the profession as a whole is in danger of being marginalized." says Nina Freedman.
by Alexandra Lange, Dezeen
Women are still, as one self-critical initiative has it, The Missing 32 Percent. As I wrote in a 2013 Metropolis story, Architecture's Lean In Moment: "The more we talk about the state of women in architecture, the more the state of architecture itself begins to sound rotten. For it to be sustainable as a profession, more than its treatment of women has to change. Women need to learn to ask for raises, but so do architects of their clients… Raising wages at all levels of the profession would increase diversity and add flexibility: unless architects lean in to clients, the profession as a whole is in danger of being marginalised. In other words, social design begins at home.
Until architecture takes a hard look at the very nature of its practice, including classic shibboleths like the all-nighter, as well as a star system that rewards those who can work, for little or no pay, for the biggest names, it's going to be difficult to expand its audience and continue to keep talent within the bounds of architecture. Obviously, there are a welter of other issues complicating architecture as practiced today, from construction labour prices and proliferating consultants, to bad press and cultural change, but you have to start with those things you can control.
by Despina Stratigakos, The Design Observer
This critique by Despina Stratigakos from The Design Observer explains the complex and varied reasons women architects are overlooked. "The reasons we forget women architects are varied and complex. Until recently, historians assumed that there were no female practitioners before the mid-20th century and so they did not bother to look. Nor was it likely that they would stumble upon these designers by chance, given that traditional research methods focus on archives and libraries, institutions that have been slow to collect women’s work."
Jane Duncan explains...in this article from The Guardian
Jane Duncan is the founder of Jane Duncan Architects and RIBA equality and diversity champion. "In 2003 the RIBA undertook a study on why women were leaving architecture. One woman's response perfectly summed up the general feeling: "frustrated with the amount of regulation and legislation, high stress, low pay, long hours and not enough flexibility to allow time with my children, lack of job security and lack of support".
by Gabrielle Esperdy, The Design Observer
An associate professor of architecture at the New Jersey Institute of Technology brings us an extensive history of the topic of gender equality in architecture. Gabrielle ponders "How did we get here (again)? I would argue that too often today, despite ongoing efforts to achieve diversity and inclusiveness, there is a tendency, especially in the aftermath of '90s-era identity politics, to efface gender difference and to avoid the F-word, effectively disallowing the conjugation of “woman” + “architect.”
by Maria Smith, Architectural Review (2/14/14)
Trying to tackle a complex issue is noble. But the set of solutions offered unfortunately don't address the depth of the challenges that women are facing: socioeconomic, biases, personal work/life flexibility challenges plaguing the modern family. See below for a counterpoint by Vanessa Quirk for Archdaily.
"Women in architecture. There, I said it. Whether you’re in the ‘why do we need to talk about this, I just want to be good at my job’ camp or the ‘we must do more to bring our backward profession up to the 21st-century standards it lags so embarrassingly behind’ camp, ‘Women in Architecture’ is probably a phrase that irks. I waver daily between those camps but I am firmly in the ‘get involved or stop whinging’ camp so, here we go: why do women leave architecture?"
by Vanessa Quirk for Archdaily (2/20/14)
"Maria Smith, shortlisted for The Architect’s Journal’s Emerging Woman Architect of the Year, has just published an article in The Architectural Review titled “Why do Women Really Leave Architecture?” – an article that, like many over the last year, attempts to tackle the tricky question of why women (who make up over 40% of architecture students in the US but only 23% of the profession) leave architecture. For the first few paragraphs, I was nodding in agreement, eagerly reading something that - finally - promised to offer a different perspective on the “women in architecture” question.
Unfortunately, a few paragraphs later, all that promise falls terribly flat. Smith spends a good amount of time setting up a fabulous argument, and then – disappointingly – falls into the very traps she was hoping to break wide open. By the article’s conclusion, I was less satisfied than when I started, wondering: is this even the right question we should be asking?"
by Lamar Anderson, Curbed.Com (3/17/14)
In celebration of Women's History Month, this article is a "Women in Architecture 101" for those new to the discussion and yet unaware of the complexity of challenges and issues surrounding the topic. There is reference to the The Missing 32% Project - Equity in Architecture Survey (Thanks!) and relevant anecdotes from women in various stages of their professional career development. A bonus survey of Pump Rooms in various firms serves to bring awareness and a gentle reminder that Equity starts with Action.
by Mark Lamster, Dallas Morning News, 8/29/14 (Excerpt from the Article, go to link above for full article) Mark attended a panel of 3 women fellows from the Texas AIA (9 total women out of 130 fellows) and this was part of his response to moderating the panel.
Those wishing to understand the high attrition rate among women in architecture should focus their attention on the assumptions implicit in those words, which are still disturbingly pervasive. Simply put: lack of workplace flexibility chases women out of the profession. The problem is especially acute in architecture, where young professionals — who are theoretically at the point in their lives when they will be starting families — are expected to work extremely long hours, often off the books. And architectural wages are nowhere near those of other professions (attorney, doctor, banker), which make large child-care bills easier to manage.
The problem demands systemic change within the architectural profession, a shift in the expectations and demands that are forcing women out, to one that actively and aggressively promotes equality. Lip service won’t do.
Those who would defend the status quo should consider how much we have to gain by a reordering of priorities — the contribution of 50 percent of our workforce. While we can dismiss the twaddle about women’s “gossamer” minds, it is true that women bring a different experience to the practice of architecture. As was noted during our discussion, statistically women are more likely than men to participate in the field of sustainability. Because they are more directly engaged in child-care, they approach our private and public spaces (or lack thereof) with a different set of assumptions.
One can’t help but wonder: How different would our cities be if the architectural profession was more equitable? Frankly, we shouldn’t have to wonder. It’s time to find out.
Let’s give a damn about gender equity in architecture, not just for the sake of women architects, but for the sake of male architects, and anyone who’s ever stepped into a building – which is everyone. - Excerpt from Blog post by by Taz Loomans
Equity by Design AIA YAF Connections - April 2015 Issue
A collaboration between Equity by Design and AIA Young Architects Forum featuring articles by Equity by Design Symposium attendees. Key articles feature the Equity in Architecture Survey findings and posts that have been featured in the blog section of this website.
Equity Outside the Profession
by Debora L. Spar, The Chronicle Review
Debora provides insights on why "Women need to realize that having it all means giving something up—choosing which piece of the perfect picture to relinquish, or rework, or delay." ..."No man can do that, either; no human can. Yet women are repeatedly berating themselves for failing at this kind of balancing act, and (quietly, invidiously) berating others when something inevitably slips."
by Joan C. Williams, Washington Post (1/24/14)
Does navigating the modern day workplace successfully require learning Gender Judo?
by Judith Warner, The New York Times
This is an interesting follow up article to"The Opt Out Revolution" (2000) , an article about successful professional women who decided to "opt-out" to exercise one's right to decide (and afford) to become a stay-at-home parent. This article candidly looks at their lives ten years later examines where these women are now and the outcomes of their original decision to leave the workforce.
by Glenn Llopis, for Forbes
Based on his own personal experience growing up in a matriarchal family, Glenn highlights the key Leadership Traits that women naturally possess and how these can be better leveraged to serve women in the workplace. He also references a previous post that discusses how women are natural leaders given their multiple roles and responsibilities that make them "the masters of opportunity management" in the workplace.
"The best women leaders I know have circular vision that enables them to be well-rounded people. For example, they have their finger on the pulse of the culture and can talk to you about the latest pop-culture news – but then easily switch gears to give you their perspective on what is taking place on Wall Street. Women leaders seeking a chance to be significant see the world through a lens of opportunity; they are especially in search of those opportunities previously unseen (perhaps this is why the women I know enjoy a good treasure hunt)."
The Confidence Gap
Women at Work series: NYTimes
Adam Grant and Sheryl Sandberg on Discrimination at Work - Outing Implicit Bias is not enough. Studies have indicated that outing implicit bias without sending iterating that it is not acceptable and needs to change has negative or no impact on changing work culture and issues related to bias. The impact occurs when implicit bias discussions are followed by the message that it is not tolerable and actionable measures are put in place to speak out when it occurs and have the discussion.
Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant on Why Women Stay Quiet at Work - Many articles have discussed the tightrope phenomenon; where women are reserved to talk at meeting or assert ideas as they are often interrupted or ignored only to have male counterparts reiterate their thoughts and received credit. Sheryl and Adam also provide real solutions to the issue and examples that have worked for others in similar situations.
In this groundbreaking comprehensive analysis, based on more than twenty-five years of in-depth surveys involving 100,000 men and women across dozens of Fortune 500 companies, Barbara Annis and Keith Merron provide a deeper understanding of the multiplicity of forces that have combined to create and perpetuate gender inequality. Gender Intelligence exposes common false assumptions that prevent men and women from successfully performing together at work—myths exacerbated by worn-out theories of gender blindness and sameness thinking. It show how a small but growing number of courageous, leading-edge companies have broken through the barriers to successfully advance women, making the remarkable transformation from compliance to choice—from pressure to preference—and show how it can be done in any business.