Architecture Survey Reveals Rise in Discrimination

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The results from the Architects’ Journal (AJ) Women in Architecture survey show increasing concerns over pay gaps, discrimination and bullying for women in the architecture profession.

In its third year, the survey plays a large role in AJ’s research on and commitment to raising the profile of women in the architectural industry and publicising gender inequality.

The latest survey which was open to both genders, received responses from 710 women and 216 men. Of the participants, 53 per cent were architects and 80 per cent were under the age of 40.

The other respondents were professional “developers, PRs, consultants, structural engineers, quantity surveyors, academics and students.” Almost a third of respondents were from London with the remainder spanning across Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and elsewhere in Europe.

More respondents believed there was pay equality than in past surveys, but the numbers didn’t quite add up, with women in architecture earning as “as much as £10,000 ($16,500) less than their male counterparts.”

Full Time Architects' Annual Salaries

Full Time Architects’ Annual Salaries

Results demonstrated changing attitudes, with 37 per cent of women believing their pay would increase if they were male, compared with 44 per cent last year – a decrease of seven points. On the other side of the coin, 71 per cent of men believe they are paid the same as female colleagues.

Furthermore, “the recorded salaries show that the largest proportion of UK full-time women architects (27 per cent) earn £27-32,000(AU$53-59,000) a year, while the largest proportion of UK full-time men architects (27 per cent) earn £37-42,000 (AU$68-78,000)” according to the AJ.

“There is also a 14-point gap at the higher end of the pay scale: 56 per cent of female architects earn more than £33,000 (AU$61,500), while 70 per cent of men are paid more than this.”

Women in Architecture

Women in architecture

One of the respondents revealed that she had been interviewed for positions and offered a “30 per cent lower salary than a man with less experience.”

These figures also reflect similar pay concerns in Australia where, in February last year, the Graduate Careers Australia (GCA) 2012 Grad Stats report revealed the architecture and building industry had the highest pay gap across all industries at 17.3 per cent.

Architect Shelly Penn, National President of the Australian Institute of Architects, noted at the time that the results were hugely disappointing.

Shelly Penn

Shelly Penn, former National President, Australian Institute of Architects

“Despite similar numbers of female and male graduates for the last three decades, women are less likely to register as architects after graduation,” she said. “As careers progress, the barriers for women increase, as evidenced by lower numbers in senior positions and higher attrition rates; the need for part-time or flexible work hours when juggling career and parenthood also affects women most heavily.”

Discrimination was also a major concern highlighted in the survey, particularly when it came to the challenge of successfully juggling an architectural career and motherhood.

According to the AJ, “88% of women respondents believe that having children puts women at a disadvantage in architecture.”

Children a disadvantage for Women in Architecture

Women see having children as a disadvantage career-wise, according to the survey

The survey revealed other shocking statistics noting that, “two thirds of women have suffered sexual discrimination, with 31% reporting monthly or quarterly occurrences, and 11% once a week or more,” the AJ said.

This equates to an eight point increase since the survey’s inception in 2011. 

Discrimination according to the terms of the survey is defined by “anything from inappropriate comments to being treated differently because of your gender.”

female architect

54 per cent of female architecture students revealed they experienced sexual discrimination

Students were the most heavily affected. A distressing 54 per cent of female architecture students said they experienced sexual discrimination while at architecture school while 20 per cent said they have experienced bullying – up five points from last year.

Christine Murray, editor of Architects’ Journal, attributes gender inequality in architecture to the building industry calling it a “macho culture.”

Christine Murray

Christine Murray, Architects’ Journal editor

“Often we associate architecture with the design industry, but a lot of it is imbedded in the construction industry,” Murray said in an interview with The Independent. “Property developers don’t think that the building industry respects the authority of the female architect and so they’re reluctant to give women that level of authority or visibility.”

Respondents seemed to agree on this point. When asked if the building industry has fully accepted the authority of the female architect, 66 per cent of women and 49 per cent of men said it has not.

Last December, the Australian Institute of Architects (AIA) took a step toward supporting women in architecture, releasing a Gender Equity Policy following results from the 2011 study, Equity and Diversity in the Australian Architecture Profession: Women, Work and Leadership.

The study offered evidence that in architecture “many women participants are being compelled or encouraged to leave the profession, or are discouraged from returning to it after a career break.”

Women In Architecture

“The disparity between male and female representation within the profession has been well documented and a growing concern not only for the Institute as the industry’s representative body but also for members of both genders,” said Paul Berkemeier, AIA president and gender equity advocate at the time of the announcement.

The policy is made up of 10 principles that will be implemented across the institute’s current and future initiatives, creating fair and equitable opportunities for women to participate and grow within the architecture profession.

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