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RMJM‘s ‘The Other Half of Design’ series has so far featured revealing interviews with some of the leading female architects within the firm, covered a host of continents and unearthed a range of eye-opening statistics. In this article, the aim is to delve into the statistics discovered throughout ‘The Other Half of Design’ and also in another series entitled ‘Women in Architecture‘, which was published in early 2016. With over one thousand female architects providing insights into the industry, the results are as valuable as they are revealing. With so much data at our disposal it is now possible to get a clearer profile of the modern female architect, the greatest challenges they face, and the reasons why many opt to leave the industry.
While the infographic pictured provides plenty of positives, it must be tempered by the fact that there are still four times as many female architects over the age of 60 as there are aged 20 or younger. Of course, in many cases, this has to do with the length of time required to become an architect. The aim for the industry needs to be about getting as many young people as possible practising it as early as possible. The biggest positive to be taken from this particular study is that almost 50% of all female architects currently employed are under 30 years of age. The future for women in architecture looks brighter than it has for a long time but there are still huge strides needed before any kind of equality is reached globally. Tellingly, there is still a significant drop-off in the number of women studying architecture to those actually going on to work in the profession. In the UK, for instance, 44% of architecture students are women. However, the total architecture workforce in the UK is comprised is just 22% female.
One question we have to ask is ‘how do women fare once they enter the profession?’ Our statistics show that 67% of female architects feel they are not accepted by the building industry which is a worryingly large number. It is also part of the reason that many architects are leaving the industry. Sexism is one of the more popular reasons for women choosing to pursue another career at the expense of architecture and one of the most easily avoidable. In 2003, RIBA (Royal Institute of British Architects) funded a research project to investigate the reasons why qualified female architects were leaving the profession and uncovered an alarming answer. The problems many women encountered included unequal pay, inflexible working hours, sexism, macho culture, protective paternalism preventing development of experience, frustration at a ‘glass ceiling’ amongst a myriad of other complaints. The findings of the 2016 Women in Architecture study and RMJM’s ‘The Other Half of Design’ reveal that more than 20% of women would not recommend a career in the industry. Architecture continues to make remarkable advances with technology, design and infrastructure but it’s important to remember that something as fundamental as equality could help drive the industry to heights it has yet to reach.