Mar 1, 2019

Architecture & Design: Encouraging Women to Join More Fields

Architecture, design and construction are fields that have been around for hundreds of years. Even in their recent form, these industries have had sufficient time to develop progress and evolve. Although all three of these fields are technologically advanced, there is still work to be done in regards to workplace diversity. Despite having equal enrollment numbers, men and women do not represent the same portion of licensed architectures. More specifically, men represent four out of every five licensed practitioners. An AIA survey conducted in 2015 found that 69% of women felt that they were underrepresented in the field. The design and construction industries are facing a similar dilemma.

Underrepresentation beyond the workspace.

It is important to note that this issue is not confined to the workplace. Women are not only underrepresented in many fields of design, but they are also not recognized on the same scale as men. In other words, even the small percentage of successful designers that are women tend to go unnoticed. Wikipedia, often heralded as the holy grail of information only lists 112 female architects from 25 different states. This lack of recognition could be resulting from the lack of women contributing to Wikipedia. In fact, only 9% of Wikipedia contributors are female.

What do other reports suggest?

There are some reports that provide people with misleading ideas about equality in the workplace. For example, The Business of Architecture in 2018 included a report suggesting that women comprised over a third of the architectural workforce in 2017. This number seems to contradict other reports and may lead some to believe that equality is near. A closer look at the study quickly reveals these to be false hopes. Most of the women included in these final figures were unlicensed. Instead, they were working lower-level, administrative jobs within the field of architecture.

Why are women leaving these fields?

A 2015 report has helped to highlight some of the primary reasons that women leave their field and contribute to the misrepresentation of their gender. Inequitable pay was one of the reasons cited for leaving the field. Some others included the long hours being incompatible with having children and inflexible schedules. Many women were having trouble establishing a work-life balance with which they were capable. It seems also that many upper-level employees work to keep female employees in lower-level roles instead of encouraging them to move up to licensed positions.

Encouraging upward mobility and access to specific skills.

There needs to be an effective and active initiative put into place to help solve this workplace diversity. Making women aware of these fields is simply not enough to fix the problem. Companies need to ensure that women have a path of upward mobility in the workplace. It is also important to ensure that female employees see this opportunity. The construction, architecture and design fields also need to spend more time teaching female employees specific skills. This technical training will help increase the likelihood that they will be hired into licensed and higher-skilled positions. For example, laser cutting technology is an important practice that licensed architectures will know how to do. A woman who is well-versed in laser cutting technology will have a greater likelihood of moving higher in her profession.

What women can do.

Women need to be at the forefront of this movement towards workplace equality and diversity. No group of people can expect others to solve problems on their behalf. Even if these problems were to be solved, they are less likely to meet expectations when performed by other people. There is already momentum in this direction, and every extra effort helps.

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