Study Unveils Barriers to Women Registering as Architects

Monday, November 17th, 2014
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Cultural and gender factors as well as the time and level of commitment required are among a number of significant factors inhibiting women from becoming registered architects, according to a new study.

Based on a study of 13 cohorts from two architecture schools in South Australia between 1999 and 2011, the Why Architecture Graduates Do Not Register as Architects: A Quantitative and Qualitative South Australian Study 1999-2011 by four researchers from the University of Adelaide found that as at 2014, more than three quarters of the female graduates had not registered as architects in any jurisdiction.

The authors describe this phenomenon as concerning given not only gender equality issues but also the value women can bring as a source of skilled labour to the profession.

While acknowledging that the findings can partially be explained by the fact that registration as an architect is not essential in order to be permitted to design buildings (though those who are not registered are not able to refer to themselves architects,) the authors argued that a gender bias in registrations does exist with women accounting for around four in 10 architecture graduates but only 21 per cent of registered architects.

They concluded that several factors contributed to this.

First up was the culture of the industry, in which a number of the women studied placed more emphasis on gaining acceptance in a male-dominated environment than on obtaining a title and some found the registration process itself to be unfriendly to women.

“I found the registration process to be an ‘old boys’ club,” one of the women studied said. “Women are the minority. It didn’t seem straight down the line.”

Not helping was the behaviour of some of their male colleagues. One lead architect recounted being referred to as ‘the b*tch,’ and her critique  of consultants’ work was viewed as coming from a woman rather than from the lead architect; another was referred to as ‘love’ by a builder throughout the duration of a site inspection for builders.

Then, there is the time taken to qualify for registration, which involves completion of a university course with a minimum of two years post-graduation before they can accrue the necessary hours in the mandatory competences to be a candidate for registration – a process which typically takes around five years and which for many women occurs at a time when they may want to start a family.

Furthermore, a number of interviewees felt registration offered little in the way of additional benefits in terms of salary or seniority, and were even wary about the professional liability consequences registration would bring.

In response, the authors made 41 recommendations covering universities, graduates in practices, practices themselves and professional bodies and associations.

Universities, for example, should provide explicit information about the route to architectural registration as well as networking and mentoring seminars for women, report authors argued.

Firms, meanwhile, should aim to create a ‘pro-registration’ culture within practices. In large firms, for instance, this may mean a graduate registration development program that enables graduates to rotate through sections to contribute to different areas of practice.

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