Is work/life harmony a fact of fiction when it comes to women in the architecture field?
“Work life Balance was identified as a main reason women are underrepresented in the industry. However, changes in this area could benefit the field as a whole,” read a passage in the AIA Diversity in the Profession of Architects Executive Summary 2016.
Here are the top three reasons noted for underrepresentation of women in architecture, according to that summary:
- Concern about work-life balance
- Long work hours that makes starting a family difficult and thereby encourages some women to leave the field
- Lack of flexibility to work remotely, job share, or work flexible hours.
So what can be done about it? Here are a few tips:
Do not listen to non-creatives
It is not hard to pick up a magazine or go online only to be inundated with the preachings of self-help gurus and well-meaning psychologists who claim to be able to get your work-life into balance, turn around your career and family life, and so on. For many, especially women juggling family and careers, this seems impossible. Many female architects lament over family life taking over their creative inspiration and growth in their profession. It seems the life of a creator is always going to be out of balance. Great design and creativity goes hand in hand with a life that many times is not harmonious
There is always going to be a problem around work-life harmony in the world of architecture.
Does this matter? And why is there so much hype around trying to create a life that ticks as many boxes as possible? Think about great performing and visual artists, writers, composers who are women. Did they live a life of orderliness or did they inhabit their craft and passions into a bohemian world full of richness, inspiration and great works?
For many of these women years ago, they had the guts and courage to stand up to their critics. Writer Emily Dickinson had the guts and courage to speak out about the importance of writing poetry in Victorian times. Singer Tina Turner struck out on her own and is still going strong after years of abuse from her husband. Both were women who had to overcome the "Boys club" mentality.
It appears the architectural profession, whether a small practice or global, needs to find its own set of metrics that celebrate the talents of women architects. Then sections of harmonious work life appear. Would you love to be part of a practice that celebrated your inclusion instead of feeling that you are chipping away at the same old projects each day? This is about education from the top down, especially with people understanding personal needs and not living in their job 24 hours a day. This is also a challenge in most professions, accounting and property especially. At present there appear to be rapid changes and more flexible working conditions with women in law.
The superhero Superwoman was created in 1941 by Harvard-educated psychologist Dr William Moulton Marston, who said “Frankly, Wonder Woman is psychological propaganda for the new type of woman who, I believe should rule the world.”
So as architects, do you have to be bound by those who talk knowledgeably about the importance of a home with balance? Generally speaking, these are women who are in professions that have clear structures and follow a less creative path. Do you wonder which world these women live in, where their heart and soul is, why are they in their careers? Is it profit or passion?
The thinking espoused by such women can leave women in architecture or creative professions at sea. They are left to wonder how to manage keeping up with some semblance of order when there is a need to let go of order for much of their initial design process.
There will only be smarter ways for women architects to harmonise work with family life once it is accepted that there can never be balance. And that is an even harder decision to make when your career is about beauty, precision, and more. It is your reason to be in this profession.
The important point as women is that we need to keep educating the Boys Club. They are the ones who need to learn from Superwoman. Stand behind your voice of authenticity and tell them what you want. Do not be shy; a strong competent architect is an asset to any company.