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Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Guest Blog: Women in architecture are a rare breed, but why?

By Lisa Raynes - Raynes Architecture

ARB statistics state that despite roughly 40% of all architecture students (not graduates) at any one point in time are female, only around 20% of British architects in practice are women.

To make matters worse, according to The Architect’s Journal’s first Women in Architecture Survey the percentage of women in architecture has fallen over the past few years and it is forecasted that this could continue to happen – leaving an even smaller female representation in the industry in coming years.

Women in Architecture are a rare breed, but why and what can be done about it?
From the 2012 AJ survey, as shocking as this may sound, 63%, almost two-thirds of respondents, express that they have experienced sexual discrimination at some stage in their architectural careers!

80% of women thought having children put them at a disadvantage in architecture. Only 8% felt that raising a family would harm their male counterparts’ careers. This theme underlines the inequalities faced by women in the field, partly due to the long qualification time required of seven years.

Architecture training is bloody long, by the time you qualify, the body clock is ticking, and you either take a break at a career critical time, or miss the opportunity, which sadly happens to far too many female architects. We need training earlier. The education system, needs to be reviewed.

Architecture is under valued and badly paid. The industry can’t afford to support women on career breaks. In a recession, there are countless stories of women, being made redundant whilst on maternity leave.

Raising awareness of architecture and design in Manchester will help increase the value of architects. Public facing programmes such as Open House and RIBA’s love architecture festival are greeted with open arms in the capital.

Traditional architecture practices are not flexible enough, and women are undervalued. New practices have emerged out of the recession, they think a little differently, are a little bit more nimble and savvy.

We all need to accept that feminism as good. What is feminism? It is the right for women to be treated as equal to men. Simple, not bra-burning, controversial, but just a simple human right. We need to put feminism back on the agenda. This month Charlotte Raven has revived the 1970s feminist magazine Spare Rib, and relaunched it as Feminist Times.

We still need role models, mentors, education at school level, and organizations like Women in Property and the AJs Women in Architecture awards, to provide support and inspiration.

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