Peter Arkle

The big news in business these days? Women. In its “Future of Work” cover story this summer, Time reported that “women will rule business.” The article cites a study showing that Fortune 500 companies with the most women in senior management had a higher return on equities—by more than a third. More women means more profit, largely because women tend to manage more cautiously and less competitively. And, as USA Today reported in September, for the first time women are on the verge of becoming the majority of the U.S. workforce, so new leadership styles are trickling down into companies. Business is becoming not kinder and gentler, but smarter. As Time reports, these trends will accelerate over the next decade as the gap between the number of college graduates and job vacancies grows, so one key factor will make all the difference: education. Already, women represent the majority of college students, and their enrollment continues to grow faster than that of men, according to a September report by the Institute of Education Sciences, so if trends continue, women truly will rule business.

One field lagging behind, however, is our own. According to the latest figures from the National Architectural Accrediting Board, architecture schools are still dominated by men, though by a decreasing margin. Of all the enrolled and matriculating students of architecture, 59 percent are men and 41 percent are women. The gender gap is much wider among faculty, however, with a split of 74 percent men, 26 percent women.

As universities and the workforce evolve, these figures will change, but architects and educators can speed things up by actively recruiting more women, and the benefits are clear. Statistically, women and girls outperform men and boys at every level of education. On mostly female campuses, both men and women get higher grades, and on those same campuses the men lean toward unusually progressive views on sociopolitical issues and the environment. In addition, growing research shows that girls actually learn differently—more through social interaction than through the simple transmission of information. Since more and more students are women, and women learn differently than men, the very nature of education inevitably will change.

The biggest benefactor of this change could be the environment. As Kira Gould and I reported two years ago in our book, Women in Green: Voices of Sustainable Design, studies consistently show that, by significant margins, women more than men support sustainable causes—through activism, advocacy, voting, and consumer choices. Arguably, the growing importance of sustainability in education is directly related to the rising number of women in education. When it comes to green, the gender gap is clear, and it favors women.