With the American Institute of Architects National Convention on my professional mind and Mother’s Day on my personal mind, I asked Google to tell me about women in architecture. Here’s what I learned…
Architecture started as a male-dominated profession…
Since the late 1800s when Louise Bethune became the first female associate of the AIA and Julia Morgan received the first civil engineering degree, women have been fighting stereotypes to prove themselves in what is still a male-dominated field.
(It’s worth noting, by the way, that Morgan was awarded the AIA Gold Medal Award last year, 60 years after her death. She is the first woman to receive the 107-year-old award; from 2010-2014, men received 82% of architecture’s top awards.)
…and it still is
A 2012 study found that 22.2% of architects in the U.S. were women. Another study found that women received 43% of accredited architecture degrees in 2012-2013. But let’s compare apples to apples: In 1997, 33% of graduates were women. If we check in on them 15 years later (the 22.2% employment rate from 2012), we find that almost 1/3 of them have left the profession.
Why, and what can we do about it?
One theory is that many women leave to have kids. That makes some sense, considering the field is known for its long hours, and, in general, women still tend to be primary caregivers.
We can do better at advocating for flex time, telecommuting options, and childcare support.
In 2012, only 2/3 of 1997 female #architecture grads were still working in the field. Why? Click To Tweet
Next, the entertainment industry’s ideal architect is a man. Architect is one of the most common professions for TV and film characters, and women are underrepresented there too. (The one notable exception, and the context for this post’s title, is Michelle Pfeiffer’s character in 1996’s One Fine Day.)
We can start pointing out that most of the architects we know don’t match what Hollywood portrays—just like most of the construction workers we know don’t look like Channing Tatum in Magic Mike. (If you don’t get the reference, ask your wife.)
#Architect is popular job for TV/film characters, but very few women. Does it matter? Click To Tweet
We as a society are obsessed with superstars and groundbreakers. But, let’s be honest, we can’t all be world-renowned or even high-profile. For every Zaha Hadid or Maya Lin designing landmarks, there are thousands of women architects designing more ordinary structures.
This obsession can lead women to believe they have to be the “best” in order to succeed. And most women (most people in general, actually) can’t achieve that—after all, there can only be one “best.” That feeling of failure can cause some to abandon architecture for a more gender-balanced profession.
We can take our daughters to work and introduce them to our female colleagues. We can show them that architects are smart, talented, and hardworking, but not usually famous. And that’s okay.
#Architects are smart and hardworking but not usually famous, and that's OK. Click To Tweet
Do you have a theory? A way to help open the door for women in architecture? Share it in the comments.
P.S. If you’ll be at the AIA Convention in Atlanta next week, stop by and see us at Booth #3959! And if you’re a mom, have a great Mother’s Day this weekend!