The Architectural Review’s (AR’s) sixth annual Women in Architecture survey found that gender inequities continue to persist in the design profession, in everything from salary to employee treatment and work–life balance. In a Feb. 27 article, the London-based magazine published result highlights from its survey, which was taken by 1,277 women and 340 men. About 70 percent of respondents are based in the United Kingdom, 12 percent in North America, 8 percent in Europe, 3 percent from Australia and New Zealand, and 3 percent from the Middle East and Asia. Three out of four respondents are in their 20s and 30s, and 63 percent of respondents say they are fully qualified architects, with architectural assistants making up much of the balance.
Overall, the survey participants had a lackluster view of architecture as a profession. Fewer than half of respondents in their 30s and 40s would recommend a career in architecture, while about a third would outright recommend against it. Female respondents viewed the profession less positively than their male counterparts, and the survey’s findings, several of which are highlighted below, offer a glimpse of why that may be the case. (AR notes that the survey, administered online, was voluntary so self-selection bias is a consideration.)
Discrimination, Bullying, and Sexual Harassment
More than half of the female respondents and nearly a quarter of male respondents report having experienced discrimination—including bullying, sexism, and sexual harassment—within the past year. One in seven female respondents also reported having experienced sexual harassment. The office, and not the job site, was cited most often as the location for discrimination to occur. In particular, meetings were a common hotbed of discrimination; one 32-year-old U.K. architect described “ ‘disgusting comments made about my sex life’ in a room in which she was the only woman,” the article notes.
While women reported men as largely the source of sexual discrimination or bullying, 40 percent of respondents who have experienced bullying cited the behavior coming from women. Survey participants cited supervisors as responsible for about half of the incidents, with peers making up another third. These bullying experiences, which were more likely to be reported by architectural assistants, include “being excluded, being shouted at, or given impossible tasks.” A third of respondents who have experienced sexual discrimination attribute clients as the source, with several female respondents describing times that they are blatantly ignored by clients.
When filtering only the U.K. responses, AR found that discrimination, bullying, and harassment was half as frequent when at least 20 percent of the architecture firm’s management team was female. Unfortunately, respondents viewed sexism as a barrier to the advancement of women in the profession, with only 56 percent of women agreeing that “their employer provides equal opportunities to men and to women,” as compared to more than 70 percent of men.
Responses to questions about salary parity between genders were striking. The survey found that the median salary for men in architecture was higher along the entire career trajectory, in every region that the survey was taken. For instance, female full-time designers in Europe report a median salary that is 42 percent less than their male counterparts. For U.S. and Canadian respondents, the difference is about 20 percent—$81,300 for women and $101,100 for men.
Similarly, the 2016 AIA San Francisco (AIASF) Equity by Design survey found that female respondents made on average 24 percent less than male respondents—$71,319 versus $94,212.
However, “when asked whether men and women doing the same work are paid the same by their employer,” AR reports that only 30 percent of female respondents are cognizant of the truth. Perhaps even more revealing, 66 percent of male respondents believe salary equity was the case at their practice, while only 37 percent of female respondents thought so.
The arduous path to becoming a licensed or qualified architect likely contributes to the median age of first-time parents: 32 for female respondents, and 34 for male respondents. The mean age for first-time mothers in the general U.S. population was 26.3 in 2014, according to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. In the U.K., the mean age of first-time mothers was 28.6 in 2015, according to the U.K.–based Office for National Statistics.
AR’s Women in Architecture survey found that the expectation to provide caregiving for dependents was greater for women than men. Among respondents, 39 percent of women and 5 percent of men report doing more than an equal share of caregiving. Conversely, 8 percent of women and 46 percent of men report doing a less-than-equal share. About the same percentage of female and male respondents—44 percent and 45 percent, respectively—report doing an equal share.
Sixty percent of survey respondents who are mothers report that having children was detrimental to their careers, with those at the associate and associate director levels in particularly strong agreement. Several women report finding fewer career opportunities and resources upon their return, and even being laid off by their employer while on maternity leave or shortly after returning to work.
It’s no secret that architecture is not a 9-to-5 job. (In what will likely shock zero trained architects, Indiana University’s 2016 National Survey of Student Engagement found that architecture majors work the longest hours outside of class during college, as reported by London- and New York–based The Tab.) AR's Women in Architecture survey found that one in eight architects regularly works at least 50 hours per week, and 30 percent of participants report working overtime “frequently or all the time.”
Still, 59 percent of female respondents and 69 percent of male respondents report having a good work–life balance.
As studies such as this survey, past Women in Architecture surveys, and the Equity by Design survey have found, the architecture profession is not absolved from gender discrimination—in pay, career advancement, firm culture, and more. However, as these realities are documented and publicized, one hopes that more people in the building industry—including those in leadership positions—will become aware of and take actions to eliminate the obstacles that prevent the profession from achieving design that builds on and benefits from a diversity of backgrounds and experiences.
Read the full Architectural Review article about its 2017 Women in Architecture survey results here.