Regardless of whether you are cognizant of the sexism women experience in architecture, the numbers are hard to dispute. According to the American Institute of Architects’ 2016 “Diversity in the Profession of Architecture Report”—the Institute's first in-depth survey in 10 years on diversity in the profession—more than two-thirds of women surveyed believe gender equity is lacking in the field, specifically in issues related to job inflexibility, work–life balance, salary, and leadership opportunities that deterred them from starting a family.
And then there are the more blatant acts of discrimination and sexual harassment that this underrepresented group faces (women make up about 18 percent of practicing architects, but about 42 percent of architecture graduates). According to The Architectural Review’s most recent Women in Architecture survey, about one in seven women has been sexually harassed by a superior, colleague, or client.
Then there's the issue of race. According to the University of Cincinnati’s Directory of African American Architects, fewer than 2 percent of licensed architects in the U.S. are African-American. Reasons include forms of systemic oppression such as the inability to finance architecture school, a lack of role models, and insufficient understanding of architecture as a viable career path, as cited in the AIA report.
Both women and minorities say they are less likely to be promoted to senior-level positions and receive equal pay for the same positions—intersectional issues commonly cited in fields beyond architecture. In fact, AIA San Francisco's Equity by Design committee found that women make 76 percent of the salary paid to their male counterparts. While the AIA's report found some gains for women and minorities in the profession over the last 10 years, plenty of evidence suggests there is room for improvement.
All of these concerns are potential reasons to participate in “A Day Without a Woman,” a one-day general strike where the organizers behind the worldwide Women’s March, in January, ask participants to show solidarity for women and gender-oppressed people by, for example, women taking the day off (either paid or unpaid); avoiding shopping for one day except at women- and minority-owned businesses; and wearing red. The day coincides with International Women's Day, which commemorates the movement for women's rights.
ARCHITECT asked several women in architecture how they are participating in "A Day Without a Woman," and why it is important to them and the overall profession.
Fauzia Khanani, Assoc. AIA, principal at Fōz Design, New York
"As an immigrant and woman of color working in a field predominately made up of white men, recognizing International Women's Day and having my firm participate in '[A] Day Without A Woman' was a no-brainer. My hope is that every woman, including myself and our staff, taking part in this strike will ultimately showcase the role we play in the success of our economy including the architecture and design industry. We, as women from all backgrounds, races, cultures, and socio-economic statuses, are staking claim on what we contribute and the role that we play in the advancement of our country."
Jamie Maslyn Larson, principal at Wagner Hodgson Landscape Architects, Hudson, N.Y.
"Over the course of 20 years in landscape architecture, I've experienced some pretty awful behavior: everything from flat-out sexism—I was told 'It's a man's world' by my former boss [when he] explained that a male colleague should present a design to a male developer client—to belittling comments—an architect collaborator said that I was 'cute and all' but that I shouldn't try to change a part of a design that I felt wasn't working. Every time one of these events happened, I internalized my hurt, even blamed myself, and never said anything out of concern that I'd appear weak, or needy, or god forbid, seem 'emotional.'
"No more—that is why I'm taking a stand today. Like a lot of my women friends in this profession, we've recently unearthed a deep well of suppressed frustrations with our profession, whose orbit still spirals around the patriarchy. I admire many male designers past and present, but I'm convinced that we'd all benefit from expanding our view of what design 'success' and 'leadership' looks like. Let's start by saying, 'The future could be different from what I know now.' If you're fortunate, maybe half of your office is women, but how many are the 'hot shot' designers? How many are design principals? As a boss (male or female), it's your job to cultivate a vibe that is open to a broad range of ideas from diverse perspectives. Young people tend to get this already—follow their lead. Though it may not look like what you've seen or heard before in the past, it could be great!"
Gisue Hariri, principal and cofounder of Hariri & Hariri Architecture, New York
"I marched in Washington, D.C.'s Women's March and am planning to do it tomorrow in 'A Day Without a Woman' strike. I have been in architecture for 30 years and nothing has changed. The doors are as closed and the opportunities are less than when I started. In my silver age, I have realized it is the same for women in all professional fields. The fact that Hillary Clinton, a highly accomplished civil servant, lost to an unqualified commander-in-chief in my views speaks [volumes] about where women are in the U.S. today and I have had it. Look at the Pritzker Prize and all the awards and trophy projects being distributed. It is absolutely shameful. Women need equal opportunities, rights, and pay. Architects have to stop pretending that gender does not matter—it does. If it plays a role in politics, it plays a role everywhere."
Andrea Leers, FAIA, and Jane Weinzapfel, FAIA, principals at Leers Weinzapfel Associates, Boston
“We are joining 'A Day Without a Woman' in solidarity with the goals of International Women’s Day to make visible the vibrance of this unity, to inspire change from systematic sexism, and to draw attention to women’s economic, social, and artistic contributions of the past and present that have been minimized, forgotten, or erased. All staff will be invited not to shop, to wear red, and to participate in a lunchtime discussion of the hot-off-the-press March issue of The Architectural Review, themed 'Rise up and Resist,' with a cover photo of the 2017 Women’s March in Washington, D.C., and including articles such as 'The Invisible Women,' 'How Architecture Cheats Women,' and its 'Women in Architecture Awards,' for which we were shortlisted.”
Susannah Drake, AIA, principal at Dlandstudio, Brooklyn, N.Y.
"While I will not be able to go to Washington, D.C., I'm behind the effort 100 percent. I was incensed by the article in the New York Times talking about how great it is that Trump is advocating for daycare, and how increased daycare opportunity would enable women to work. Why does childcare all fall on the shoulders of women in these conversations? It took two to tango and create the child in need of care. The imbalance in terms of childcare hours needs more careful analysis. It is an economic and human issue.
"Tomorrow, I will be in an airplane flying to North Little Rock, Ark., for a project meeting on Thursday. I wonder if the airlines will have problems because most of the flight attendants are women. More and more pilots are women, but not as many as one might expect. I will wear red in solidarity with my sisters as my grandmother wore white in marching in Washington for a woman's right to vote a century ago. My small WBE will allow people who want to protest to take to the streets as desired.
"The higher you get in the profession, the sexism reveals itself more. There are so many excuses used to hide reasons why women are not selected for significant projects or academic positions. There is a reason that the male/female partnership model is so prevalent, even when the men are not the face of firms."
Katherine Aul, founder and principal landscape designer of Staghorn, New York
"As a female professional and business owner in the rather male-dominated realm of landscape design/architecture/construction, I feel the need and responsibility to participate in 'A Day Without a Woman' and its sister protests very keenly. Acts of misogyny, both subtle and not-so subtle, happen on a semi-regular basis to both me and the women of my female-dominated staff. To be told by a masonry supplier to 'have my contractor call him back to make the order' because I’m a woman, or to have the sight of my female team members using hand drills be considered a novelty simply because they are female, are just a few of the ways we’ve been marginalized in our professional lives. And we aren’t alone.
"I am protesting because on a local level, without myself, my firm, and much of my team, a sizable swath of New York City’s backyard and rooftop gardens would never have been designed, built, or maintained. I am protesting because on a global level, there are the millions of women making an enormous impact on our lives daily that I want to support and show up for. I am protesting because it’s time that the power, capability, and impact of women became recognized, respected, and equally valued to that of our male counterparts."
Emily Grandstaff-Rice, FAIA, senior associate at Arrowstreet, Boston; and co-chair of the AIA's Equity and the Future of Architecture Committee
"I see International Women's Day as a celebration of the role of women rather than a protest. It has taken me awhile to develop my voice, my advocacy on issues relating to equity, diversity, and inclusion in architecture. I will be in Washington, D.C., attending the AIA Grassroots conference proudly wearing red because architects and society need more women and underrepresented groups in leadership positions."
Lisa M. Chronister, AIA, principal planner of City of Oklahoma City Planning Department, Oklahoma City
"I am fortunate to have a job that offers paid leave. However, I have an important public meeting scheduled for 9 a.m. Wednesday in which female staff members and volunteers play critical roles. The meeting would not happen at all if women were not there to participate. Therefore, I am choosing to go to work and to participate as my way of showing women’s value in the workplace.
"I thought about taking off work right after the meeting, as part of my strike. But, as soon as my 9 a.m. meeting is over, I will rush to attend the funeral of a former colleague (also an architect). He and I weren’t very close, but I want to be there to support other co-workers who deeply mourn his loss. I am choosing to attend this funeral as my way of showing women’s value in the workplace.
"After the funeral, I need to hurry back to work to conduct an employee’s annual performance evaluation. I am a woman who supervises other women, so it is very important to me to turn in their performance evaluations in a timely manner so that they can receive their well-deserved merit pay increase in a timely manner. I am choosing to return to work as my way of showing women’s value in the workplace.
"I will not wear red tomorrow. Red is not 'my color,' so while I have a variety of orange, pink, an purple blouses, I do not have any red blouses and I won’t buy one just to wear on one day. I will wear a piece from my existing wardrobe as my way of showing women’s value in the workplace.
"I will not be joining for celebratory drinks with anyone after work tomorrow. My husband is out of town for the next few days so my evenings will be spent picking up my son from school, managing homework, listening to him read to me, preparing dinner, making sure there are clean school uniform clothes for tomorrow, and making sure his teeth are brushed before he goes to bed. I am choosing to be 'Mom' tomorrow as my way of showing women’s value to our community."
Carrie Strickland, AIA, principal at Works Progress Architecture, Portland, Ore.
"As ambitious women working in the still male-dominated profession of architecture, we are acutely aware of the hard work it takes to be successful in our businesses and our lives. We know the sacrifices, the difficult compromises, and the taste of blood from biting our tongues every day. We do this to achieve our goals, set an example for our communities, families, and most importantly our daughters and sons. Works Progress Architecture (W.PA) stands in support of equal rights for women everywhere, also acknowledging the immense struggles of women of color, transgender women, and gender non-conforming individuals alike. We also acknowledge that not all women have the luxury of taking a day off from work, from spending money, a day off from running their businesses or their households. W.PA stands in resolute solidarity with these women and individuals because we are them. Women are a massive driving force in the world economy and equal rights, in every form, should reflect that power."
This article will be updated on a rolling basis as more statements are submitted.