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VIEWS ASK THE ARCHITECTS


Leading female UK architects share their experiences of being a woman in the profession, and the challenges that still exist for achieving gender diversity. Participants: Sadie Morgan, co-founder, dRMM Architects; Jane Duncan, director at Jane Duncan Architects & RIBA past president; Fionn Stevenson, professor of architecture, University of Sheffield; Angela Dapper, partner Denton Corker Marshall; Denise Bennetts, founding principal Bennetts Associates


SHOULD WE BE CELEBRATING WOMEN IN THE PROFESSION AS 'FEMALE ARCHITECTS'? Sadie: Celebrating achievements is absolutely the way to go. The profession has treated me incredibly well and I’m very grateful for the successes I’ve had, and I am also very conscious of the importance of having role models for young women to understand that they can achieve in what is still a very male-dominated industry. I have come to the conclusion that we need to keep ourselves in the limelight. Angela: Giving women more coverage and creating role models helps encourage more women to enter the profession and hopefully to stay in the profession. Jane: Architects are architects, some are women (too few still), all have to undertake the same long and difficult training before qualification. There are great women in architecture, past present and future, whom we can and should celebrate, not as women architects, but as great architects. Denise:We should acknowledge and celebrate the contribution that women have been making to the profession for more than a century. For too many years their work and achievements were not afforded the same recognition and acclaim than that of their male contemporaries and colleagues; I am delighted that things have changed for the better in that respect. However, I think care needs to be taken not to adopt lazy attitudes and potentially misleading language in discussions – I have never subscribed to the notion of being a ‘female architect’ as distinct from


ADF SEPTEMBER 2018


27


supportive now than 10 years ago. Jane: There are more young women architects so it is becoming normal, but we still see the attrition of mid-career women, and older firms’ glass ceilings still firmly in place. We need more role models, and practices need to have people- friendly policies. Sadie: Things that have been an issue – such as quite considerable pay gaps – are being talked about and articulated, so the industry is more aware, and that can only be a good thing. Denise: When I qualified 40 years ago the notion of type-casting women as being better suited to particular types or scales of projects had abated and I was able to develop my career on large-scale, complicated projects. What has changed since is that there are more visible women role models, mentors and collaborators. It would now be odd to go to a job interview, or client/site meeting, and for women not to be participating in many of the roles.


There is still a gender pay gap and we just need to do our best to be sensible and promote women without feeling like they are second class citizens Sadie Morgan, dRMM Architects


an ‘architect’. I have always worked in collaborative environments which have not been premised on gender.


IS BEING A FEMALE LESS OF AN ISSUE IN THE PROFESSION THAN 10 YEARS AGO? Fionn: On balance, probably, and certainly the surveys seem to say so – but we still have a long, long way to go. Some things have improved – we have more women entering architecture than ever before, but we have nowhere near enough women directors in practice. Angela: There have definitely been improvements in gender equality and particularly in awareness of inappropriate behaviour, so the profession feels more


WHAT ARE THE KEY CHALLENGES THE INDUSTRY STILL PRESENTS TO WOMEN ARCHITECTS? Fionn: Pay, childcare and respect. All practices have to be transparent about pay and bonuses, otherwise discrimination will continue in secret. Look at the pay differences revealed by the legislated requirement for large practices to disclose them. Without adequate state-funded childcare, from six months onwards, women will never be able to compete on equal terms with men for promotion. On respect, a young graduate architect wrote to me recently as I am an RIBA Role Model for diversity – she said she felt “crushed” by people in her office, who gave her very little support. This has to change. Angela: The main issue is women leaving, which is such a waste of talent; a common reason is due to a lack of work/life balance, which is exacerbated due to having children, low salaries and the cost of childcare. Denise: In our practice we always come back to the issue of childcare as this tends to have the most direct and potentially difficult impact. It varies by circumstance – the balance of responsibility between partners, travel time, lack of nearby family – but it is a recurrent issue that a mother can feel that somehow she is not fulfilling her professional responsibilities. Fewer mothers are opting to limit their career aspirations than in the past, and hopefully flexibility of working arrangements will facilitate this.


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