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Low Number of Female Practicing Architects

Nov 5 '11 41 Last Comment
Quizzical7
Nov 5, 11 5:58 am

What is considered the primary reason for the low number of female practicing architects?

 

elinor
Nov 5, 11 9:10 am

i'd say the primary reason is the difficulty of merging work and family life.  this applies more to women who work at firms than to women in solo practice, but since architects more or less have to work for other architects early in their careers (time that coincides with prime childbearing years) it probably has an effect on most to all female architects.

another reason is that the traditional model of practice is an inherited one that dates back to more, shall we say, sexist times, and carries a lot of baggage regarding perceptions of power and authority.  this often rears its head in unexpected ways in the dynamic between employees at firms but also between architects and clients.  in my experience at corporate firms, i noticed that women were often directed into 'job captain' type roles, which carry a lot of responsibility but not much executive design or decision-making power...basically supportive roles.  (incidentally, i came across this earlier today and thought it was very interesting... SOM leadership ) i often joke to my husband that in this profession, if you're a guy over 6' tall you're halfway there...employers are more likely to think you capable of getting the point across to the builders at the job site and also of projecting authority and capability to clients.  and the clients are more likely to trust you to get the job done, especially if they are men, and even more so if they are men of a certain age.

a third reason is that there are very few (if any) female developers.  if you've ever done work for developers, you know that it involves more than just workplace meetings...you have to develop a relationship that involves a certain level of trust, which often means a few drinks at the bar or golf or something like that...situations that create some awkwardness between the genders.  i was once told, while on a business trip, that i could skip a client meeting if i felt like it, since it would be held at a bar where there would be drinking (!). women are better represented in academia and among architects who do institutional and public work, since institutions tend to have policies in place that actively encourage equal opportunity.  in my solo practice most of my residential clients have been women, which has been very interesting after having worked in a pretty masculine corporate environment.  i think as more women have their own money to spend, and as younger generations ascend to positions of power, some of these problems are likely to disappear.

 

elinor
Nov 5, 11 9:17 am

one more thing...much is made about the lack of female mentors, which some people think impedes the progress of younger women in the field.  i think the issue is not so much that the mentors have to be female, but that they have to be willing to mentor women.  if you have enough support from higher-ups early in your career and can get yourself to a certain level, i think it gets easier...it's getting to that point (while having children and building up all those professional relationships) that seems to me to be damned near impossible...

ppss
Nov 5, 11 11:36 am

About the SOM thing, this is a good point, the 2 times I (female) interviewed there (visa issues) I was particularly struck by the tallness of the men (3 in total) who interviewed me, All over 6ft tall. The bosses of friends featured on that link in Elinor's post above are really tall too. 

It might be interesting to also compare with interior design, which is bottom heavy with women (and not to be politically incorrect  - gay men). It seems they loose women upon marriage and mother hood, replace with young women and lather, rinse, repeat. 

I know of women who have wanted flexible hours, while the baby is being breastfed, the freedom to work from home and teleconference, and these options aren't at all considered. Between an infant and an inconsiderate work environment, those who can - leave. And lets face it, the work isn't curing cancer. If most of what we do first directly serves the interests of the top 5%, and then as a matter of happenstance is housing, a university, a hospital (noble but least gratifying architecturally), office buildings etc that is not exactly building a profession full of people who find their work meaningful, particularly in the face of child rearing. having said that, I'm sure after a few years of only raising the kids, many women would want to get back to the  profession. So loads of women are denied a wholesome career for a matter of 5-7 years when they need some flexibility. 

One person, who now works for a city govt in back of beyond jersey, and worked previously at SOM said it was impossible to think about starting a family while working there. US maternity and paternity leave law doesn't help either.

i wouldn't say that women catch out the contradictions and injustices of the profession more than men, many of my vacuous worker bee colleagues who have been both men and women, prevent me from doing so. At the same time women are just as efficient as men. Everyone is dispensable, so without policy changes leading to cultural change, like swedish law which gives 13 months child leave to be shared between the equally as they see fit, until the child turns 8, there can be no social change. (http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/10/world/europe/10iht-sweden.html?ref=europe&pagewanted=1)

We could float an architectural competition to address gender inequality in the profession, but something tells me that's not where the solution lies. 

 

Archinect
Nov 5, 11 11:57 am

Have you read our recent feature Gender and Design Leadership?

ppss
Nov 5, 11 12:10 pm

I had not read this. Thanks! When i was between jobs i read archinect a lot, since i've got a paying job again, I haven't been reading as much. 

It would be interesting to plot the hits archinect got over the last couple of years and co-relate that to industry data on layoffs. Surely hits must have soared at the peak of the layoffs.  I listen to podcasts a lot at work, perhaps archinect should consider adding a podcast section. We can't read while working, but we can listen. 

Donna SinkDonna Sink
Nov 5, 11 1:03 pm

ppss you are brilliant.  Archinect, if I had podcasts I wouldn't be WASTING time while posting!  I'd be working!

quizzical
Nov 7, 11 12:00 pm

Quizzical7 (no relation): I'm not sure there is a "primary" reason - only some fairly familiar patterns. While my perspective admittedly is masculine, in my experience each woman who decides to withdraw does so for very personal reasons. Some of those reasons are cultural; others are structural to the profession.

I believe a fairly sizable proportion of female architects make a personal decision to pull back from the profession in order to raise a family and then, for a variety of reasons, simply never return. In the case of my own architect wife, she was enjoying her role as "Mom" and simply did not want to return. (Fortunately, we figured out a way to make that decision affordable.) She has never regretted that choice.

Others I've known were not comfortable managing the stress associated with trying to balance the demands of career and family. Others believed they fell behind after having children and found it hard to close the experience gap. Still others believed the profession to be hostile to their needs and declined to return under those conditions.

In our area, the percentage of women holding senior positions in architecture firms does remain lower than is the case for their male counterparts. However, there are more than a few women who are principals at medium and large firms - and many more than a few who established their own firms and have done quite well.

It seems to me that female architects may be more likely to have high-earning spouses than may be the case with male architects. It would be interesting to know if a) that's actually the case, and b) whether that economic flexibility is an important, if not decisive, factor when women choose to leave the profession.

Surprisingly, I'm personally aware of very few women who have left architecture in order to pursue other vocations. In my world, that kind of career change tends to occur much more frequently among male architects.

sfer
Nov 7, 11 12:31 pm

I feel very much caught in this gap.  I got my ivy degrees, worked 4 years, and then had two kids at age 30 and 33.  I "went out on my own" in 2000 when the first was born, and did manage to have a pretty satisying part-time career doing small residential work combined with occasional freelance consulting until about 2009, when the work ran dry.  I am still working, though on still smaller and less satisfying projects.  I get the sense that because I continue to work out of my home while the kids are in school, I'm pigeonholed into the role of architect for small remodels that "real" firms, even in this economy, don't want.  Admittedly, I like my flexibility, and not having the overhead of an office storefront.  I also wish I had had a little more experience before heading out on my own, as I had to figure out a lot on my own over the years, and still find any conflict with client or contractor too stressful for my own good.

At the risk of gross stereotyping, my husband is also an architect, and though I'm a talented designer and great with details, my own slightly neurotic, more "female" personality seems to cause many more headaches than his more "male," naturally confident, fake-it-til-you-make-it approach.  But perhaps it's also because he's worked full time within the supportive bosom of one firm for the last decade, and not had to juggle so many competing interests while gaining his experience.

sfer
Nov 7, 11 12:54 pm

Sorry for the long post, but want to add that, even though my children are now 8 and 10, my experience has been that whenever my work ratchets up close to full time, my life starts feeling very unsustainable.  Because our current division of the family-home workload falls largely on me, for me to switch to full time employment would require a huge adjustment for my entire family.  While it may be possible, if dh were to take on a greater share of the burden, I'm not convinced I would be happier working full time, even though the design work might be more glamorous or interesting.

I've been looking around for other, more meaningful ways to make money.  I'd be willing to switch careers, but am not sure what I'm qualified for, that would still allow the flexibility I have, and pay more than $20/hour.

Nov 7, 11 1:50 pm

The gender discrepancy has a lot to do with the age of the profession.  Since architects do not really retire, there are a ton of us who are 70-100 year old men.  These roots stretch back pretty far.  It's probably another 30-40 before years before we really see gender equity in the profession.  Maybe even gender inequity since women tend to live longer and schools are now trending towards a majority of female enrollment.

In 2050, we might be posting threads wondering about what happened to all of the male architects, yo!

archie
Nov 7, 11 1:52 pm

in architecture schools, women are about half of the students.  At the entry level positions in firms, women are about half of the talent pool.  But when you get to the upper levels, partners and owners, there are more men than women. 

So why do women drop out?   Earlier posters blamed it on the profession being unfriendly to moms, can't breastfeed at work, lack of flexibility etc.  But the two professions most dominated by women, teaching and nursing, are much worse!  you can't bring your baby to work at a hospital, but my employees bring their kids here. You can's how up and hour late to a teaching job, but my employees do it all the time.  If you are a nurse, your shift could change very few weeks- talk about a day care nightmare.  I have found architecture to be the  EASIEST profession to deal with mom issues versus friends in other fields.  (like being a doctor, lawyer, teacher, nurse, bus driver, bartender, pretty much any profession...)

In my experience, women don't want to take on the risk and responsibility of firm ownership and management.  If they do, they do it as a small firm, one or two people, working out of their house, perhaps part time. Don't get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with this, but until women start to think bigger and start firms (or join as a partner) that area large, it is not going to change much.  I have had many female employees just start to reach a peak in their careers, they have kids, take a few years off, then they want to work only part time after that.  It is hard to build ANY career with that kind of situation. 

Rusty!
Nov 7, 11 2:01 pm

Women in architecture will continue to get bigger slice of the pie. As soon as the boomers die.

More pressing question is where are all the black folk? My personal number is three (out of over 1000 of industry professionals I worked with over the years). Are they taking career advice from Japanese businessmen?

And I do know successful people from all kinds of backgrounds. Architecture remains largely a white man's delusion. 

elinor
Nov 7, 11 2:17 pm

'But the two professions most dominated by women, teaching and nursing, are much worse! '

are you serious?  a teacher's workday goes from 8-ish  to 3-ish or thereabouts, with 3-4 months a year of cumulative time off.  the schedule corresponds more or less exactly to a child's schedule from age 6 to 18, and teachers are often able to work locally, eliminating the need for a long commute.  (yes, i know that teachers often put in more work than this, but much of it, like grading papers or planning lessons, can be done from home).  it's much more flexible than a 50-60 hr. job that might take 2 hrs a day to get to and from, and that often requires late nights and weekends (and travel) with little warning.  the only woman i know who is a nurse scheduled her shifts in the evenings when her husband was home with the kids when they were small...not easy on their marriage but they seldom paid for childcare.

it's true that few careers are easily manageable when the kids are really small, but i really doubt that a teacher or nurse will fall to the bottom of the hiring pool if she takes a year or two off to be with a baby, which is exactly what seems to happen in architecture.

elinor
Nov 7, 11 2:25 pm

'In my experience, women don't want to take on the risk and responsibility of firm ownership and management.  If they do, they do it as a small firm, one or two people, working out of their house, perhaps part time. Don't get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with this, but until women start to think bigger and start firms (or join as a partner) that area large, it is not going to change much.  I have had many female employees just start to reach a peak in their careers, they have kids, take a few years off, then they want to work only part time after that.  It is hard to build ANY career with that kind of situation. '

this attitude=exactly the problem.  let me guess--you're a man over 50 whose wife did most of the child-rearing work (if you have kids...)

elinor
Nov 7, 11 2:35 pm

ha!  mihai would like to share more about his misogynist feelings with us, but is too busy working on his 'success career'!  :) 

Rusty!
Nov 7, 11 2:40 pm

ugh. When are we bombing Vietnam again? I think it should be part of the stimulus package. 

elinor
Nov 7, 11 2:42 pm

rusty--kids from working-class or poor backgrounds are acutely concerned about earning power when they choose a career, because they have firsthand knowledge of what it means to be poor.  i have a little experience with projects that tried to increase diversity in the profession (in architectural education, specifically).  a lot of kids weren't interested in architecture because of the low pay, or found other careers (law, public service) more meaningful to their experience than designing buildings.  most of them were black and hispanic.  white kids with white-collar parents go into architecture in droves, and so do minority and immigrant kids from cultures where architecture is highly respected (asians, south asians, east-europeans...)

Rusty!
Nov 7, 11 2:52 pm

that makes sense elinor. If I followed my own ethnic roots I would have gone into demolition and genocide.

I often wonder what could have been.

archie
Nov 7, 11 2:53 pm

elinor,   I am a female architect with two kids, now grown.  I have worked nearly every day of my life from graduation until now.  I worked until one day before my first child was born, and went back to work shortly there after.  I started my own firm, over 25 employees now, fully half of them female.  And by the way, I have had a male employee who worked part time so he could pick up the kids after school, and most of my male employees share child rearing duties with their kids.  When more women do this, architecture will be easier for women AND MEN who want to balance family and work.  And by the way, no one except me works more than 40 to 42 hours per week.

elinor
Nov 7, 11 2:55 pm

ok, i humbly bow and accept my comeuppance.  i am much more interested, then, in why you think as you do...

 

Rusty!
Nov 7, 11 2:56 pm

archie" I am a female architect with two kids, now grown."

Your handle is confusing then. Please change to Betty or Veronica. 

Donna SinkDonna Sink
Nov 7, 11 2:58 pm

Oh shit - I flagged mihal's spam but accidentally flagged elinor's post above first - Big Green Head, please note: elinor isn't flag-worthy, only the creepy hotel guy!

elinor I think archie's a woman who runs her own firm.  That said, archie, I think you're off base with your nurse and teaching comparison.  Those fields ARE dominated by women, and thus they have a great support network at the workplace for their schedules, problems, etc.  Women in architecture tend to have little or no support at the office - your firm and my old firm being two notable exceptions.  TWBTA is also very woman-friendly, I think.

I'll say it for the one-bazillionth time here: office policies that are friendly to women are the same as office policies that are friendly to families.  Men, if you want to have a job that allows time with your kids, now or future, consider supporting workplace attitudes that support both work-life balance AND smart work by dedicated people.  They really aren't mutually exclusive.

elinor
Nov 7, 11 3:12 pm

i really can't understand how a woman can say that wanting 2 or 3 years of flex time makes it hard to build a career.  we live in a time when the average working life of an architect, from graduation at 23-24 to retirement--um--never...is pretty damned long.  to say that taking a lighter load for 5-8% of that working life should be a permanent black mark just seems like an unfair prejudice to me.

ps donna--be easy on mihai, he's from a culture that is pretty backward in its gender relations. you're in the EU now, mihai...time to catch up!! :)

 

archie
Nov 7, 11 3:57 pm

Elinor, I don't think it is impossible to take time off.  You do lose momentum though.  This happens in many, many professional careers, not just architecture.  Two years is one thing, but it usually stretches to five or six or seven. You might be able to come back, but you are always going to be playing 'catch up' with those seven years missing.   One of my (male) employees works from home, and has for about 8 years. He works in another state!  Our profession is very lucky in that we do so much electronically, and can use tools like "go to meeting".  Most offices have flexible hours.   I don't see much support in teaching and nursing.  For example, how does a school teacher leave the classroom to go pump breast milk?  Yes, the profession is suited to someone who has a 7 year old, but that is 7 years out of the workplace.  No slam on teachers and nurses, but they are not in a career when you continue to learn in leaps and bounds for all 30 or so years of your career. 

The stuff about women not wanting to think big,start larger firms, take risks etc. comes from my experiences.  I have mentored over 20 women owned businesses over the years.  I  work with three different professional groups geared towards women.  One of the biggest blocks in the way of growing a woman owned business is the woman herself, and her fears, and preconceived notions.  I was once in a room of 20 or so women business owners.  One of them said, "it's not like I want to make a million dollars or anything".  All of the other women nodded in agreement.  I am 100% sure that in a room of 20 male business owners, most of them would be EXPECTING to gross a million dollars, and a few would be aiming for a billion.

and Rusty!  I am old!  When I was starting out, contractors used to refer to the architect on the job site as  the "archie" hence the name. Talking about job sites, on one of my first jobs, the superintendent refused to talk to me because i was female.  Things are different, but still strange: only a month ago, I was at a first job meeting for a project, and the superintendent assumed I was the developers secretary. When I told him who I was, he was embarrassed and said it was because I was "taking notes".

quizzical
Nov 7, 11 3:59 pm

eleanor: with respect, if you read archie's 1:52 post carefully, she didn't say "flex time" ... she said "part time" ... in an office environment, that's a significant distinction. IMHO, it's really hard to assign significant responsibility -- especially managerial responsibility -- to someone who's not engaged in company business at least 40 hours per week.

I've known men whose careers have suffered when forced to work limited schedules for extended periods of time due to illness, the need to care for a family member, or while pursuing additional education. There still can be progress, but individuals in these situations naturally tend to fall behind their peers, all else being equal (which is never really the case).

elinor
Nov 7, 11 4:59 pm

wow, archie, i would really like to have a couple of drinks with you!  (and i mean that with respect, even though i'm flabbergasted by some of the things you say...)

'One of the biggest blocks in the way of growing a woman owned business is the woman herself, and her fears, and preconceived notions.  I was once in a room of 20 or so women business owners.  One of them said, "it's not like I want to make a million dollars or anything".  All of the other women nodded in agreement.  I am 100% sure that in a room of 20 male business owners, most of them would be EXPECTING to gross a million dollars, and a few would be aiming for a billion'

this sounds like something my father would say, and he's a total chauvinist from the same place as mihai up there...isn't it possible that what constitutes success can be a more complex calculus of risk vs. reward than firm size and profit?  (i do understand that your argument is likely more complex than the few sentences you were able to post above...) i know architects of both genders who would prefer a smaller practice with a more manageable project base to a partner role at a large firm because they would find the work and their role in it  more meaningful, even if it meant less money.  i, for one, would totally expect the million dollars if i fully committed to running a firm, but my ideal balance of risk, reward, success, flexible hours, and rewards of other kinds (respect, family life, etc) would probably be a full-time academic position, even though it never comes with a seven-figure salary.

i think your definition of what it takes to succeed is a bit too traditional for my taste...a  bit too close to the macho, go-for-broke attitude that has been rewarded for a long time (see financial crisis) which is exactly what i think needs to change.  i can see that that's how the world works now,  but i'd be interested in examining alternative models.  i don't consider myself fearful or unable to take risks, but you're probably right, i'm not sure i am willing to stake everything for the eventual reward of a million-dollar firm, at least not the way things work now.  and if you think it's because i'm female, you should meet my husband.

that said, i obviously don't have a 25-person firm, and you do.  let me know if you're ever in the NYC area...you're pretty harsh, but i'd appreciate your mentoring anytime! :)

this actually sounds more like an argument between management and labor than an argument about gender issues.  sure, having someone drop out does have an effect on the firm, but maybe those firm owners should be willing to take a broader view?  surely making 800k rather than a million would still be ok, wouldn't it?

snook_dude
Nov 7, 11 6:20 pm

Elinor,

In Brazil at the Public University (which is by the way the best university to study at). The women students out number the boy students.  Oh ya and if you can get into the Public University , it is free, so no student loans.  However with that said people go to private schools for grade school, middle school and high school  to have an opportunity at a shot at a free education.  I'm not sure how it pans out over the long haul, if there are more women practicing architecture in Brazil than men, but it might be a good study.

sfer
Nov 7, 11 9:04 pm

A lot of this discussion sounds as much like part of the problem as part of the solution.  I don't believe that someone working less than 40 hrs/week can't perform well managing projects, assuming they make themselves available and flexible.  If you can't get it done between 9 and 3 over the course of a month (120 hrs), what makes it more likely you'd get it done between 9 and 6, over the course of 3 weeks (120 hrs)?  I won't claim to know about a commercial setting, but certainly within a residential project setting.

My mom got a law degree and founded her own successful law firm during my childhood 30 years ago, and still runs it today.  So I have proof that it's possible to "make it" as a woman, but I've also experienced firsthand the effects of a mom stretched too thin.  Are our choices so limited that we must choose between sacrificing family balance to be successful, or giving up our prospects of realizing our career potential?

future hope
Nov 7, 11 10:17 pm

This is an interesting discussion, especially since I have recently had my first child.  My husband and I are currently both working full time, but I find myself wishing that I was not.  Working part time sounds so much more enjoyable.

I think part of it is that it is still more socially expected for a women to stay at home with the kids.  There is less stigma to it.  A lot of people were shocked when my husband took a 3 month paternity leave.  (I do think this is changing though.)  Since there is less stigma, why not stay home and enjoy the limited time we have with our kids.

I make more money than my husband and have great benefits, so if one of us were to quit, it would make sense that it be him.  However, he enjoys working more than I do.  I don't want him to quit and lose momentum in his career because that would put more pressure on me to work more and longer.  It remains to be seen what we will do when we have two kids.  I will probably work part time because I want to - even though it won't maximize our financial earnings or my career advancement.

babs
Nov 7, 11 10:53 pm

There's an undercurrent in this thread that makes me somewhat uncomfortable.  There seems to be a feeling that individuals taking extended maternity leave - followed by perhaps years of part-time work - should not experience meaningful slowdown in their career advancement or restriction in their long term earnings potential. While I appreciate the desire, as a practical consideration I don't understand the expectation. We get better at what we do - and demonstrate our contribution - by investing time, gaining experience, and producing work.  It seems natural that those who don't accumulate as much time on the job are not necessarily going to keep pace with those who do. Career interruptions - for whatever reason - involve necessary tradeoffs. Firm's have very little ability - much less motivation - to mitigate the career impact of those tradeoffs.

elinor
Nov 7, 11 11:22 pm

babs--if personal/family leave was available to everyone, then it would just be a normal part of doing business, and would not result in anyone being left behind.  my cousin in europe is a mathematician who got two years of paid maternity leave and then successfully reentered the workforce, because that's what people do there.  did she miss out on some experience and maybe a raise or two?  maybe.  was it the end of the world?  probably not.  as someone up higher wisely noted, we don't cure cancer, we just make buildings. let's keep that in perspective when we talk about the importance of experience.  having and raising children is a basic human right.

mantaray
Nov 7, 11 11:37 pm

You might be able to come back, but you are always going to be playing 'catch up' with those seven years missing.   

 

This doesn't fundamentally make sense to me.  If you take time off (and let's remember that in this economy, it's not necessarily always by choice), I don't understand why you would be considered as losing something, or regressing, during that time away.  Let's face it, this profession does NOT change that frequently.  Ok - you may have to take a week to become up-to-speed on the latest autocad release, and to review the latest trends in cladding material and lamping technology - but you have to do that ANYWAY every time you start a new project.  We are essentially doing things today more or less that way we've done them for 50 years (since about the 1960s), albeit with more pressure to get the drawings done fast via the "miracle of computers".  Say a woman has 8 years' experience at the time she has her first child (not unreasonable given current trends).  She is licensed by that point and has been managing projects.  If she takes 5 years off, sees the kid into kindergarten, and then applies for jobs again, I see no reason why she wouldn't then be competing with other folks with 8 years' experience.  Given that she's an architect, we know she must be reasonably intelligent & driven, and most likely she's even kept herself up-to-speed on industry trends during her time away from the profession.  What's so god-awful about this scenario that we say she'll "never catch up" and "lose momentum" and "take her career off-track"?  Do we really think architecture has made so many leaps and bounds in 5 years that she literally no longer fits into the work-force?  This makes no sense to me.

 

And for the record, teachers and nurses are continually learning.  Not only do both professions require stringent continuing education in order to maintain licensure - just like architecture - but, in nursing especially, there is continual need to learn how to use new machines, new techniques, etc.  Teaching less so, but teachers themselves are pretty creative and driven people and depending on what they teach, they have to invent entire new curricula each year.  I know a bunch of teachers and nurses who would be absolutely aghast at your assertion that they don't need to keep learning.  They need to keep learning just as much as architects do.

mantaray
Nov 7, 11 11:46 pm

You know what, now that I'm working in a different profession - one that is much more humane, without fussing over it - I have to call bullshit on a lot of these excuses.  Honestly, it's not that hard to create a humane workplace.  You just have to fucking decide to do it, and stick to your guns and do it already.  

You work for clients and are supposedly driven by their demands?  Push back a little.  Make it clear that your workers' happiness is better for the client as well as for you.  Don't just agree when the client insists the entire set of working drawings be completed in 3 weeks, and then make your lowly entry-level architects pull all-nighters to get the impossible done.  Manage your clients' expectations.  And give your employees a choice!  At my last firm we used to sit around talking about the fact that we'd far rather have extra time off, or greater control over our own schedules, than a raise.  Make the commitment to a humane working life and just get it the fuck done.  Your employee wants to work 7am-2pm so she can be at home when her kids are?  Fine.  As long as she gets her work done, is present for client/project meetings, what difference does it make?  Does he need to work at home 2 days a week?  As long as he's in contact with the office and can communicate effectively with his team, why not?  And yet these things weren't even discussed in my last few offices.  Nobody wanted to bring it up, because it was pretty clear that if you questioned the insane hours, then you must not be dedicated enough, and you're target #1 for lay-offs.  Make an open an encouraging atmosphere in your firm - open yourself up to the possibility that it might work, and give your worker a chance.  Let them prove whether it works or not.  And as for that woman who's interviewing after 5 years off to raise her kids? Well, give her a chance - don't just assume she's somehow regressed into architectural incompetence just because she doesn't know the latest Flor carpet patterns.

sfer
Nov 7, 11 11:59 pm

Thank you, mantaray.  What is your current profession?

archie
Nov 8, 11 11:34 am

Elinor,

I agree that you can define success in many, many ways, and it is in the eye of the beholder.  I was  not trying to convey that women need to be in large firms to be successful.  What I am trying to say  (I am better at drawing than talking...)  is that many more women choose "lifestyle" architectural practices  (or jobs) than men.   That is ok, but when you then look at the profession as a whole, women earn less, practice less hours, attain ownership less than men, etc.   If, for example, 75% of all female doctors decided to practice only part time, and on a fill in basis at clinics, then we would all be asking why there were so few female doctors around.   When a higher percentage of women than men decide to take a more laid back approach to their career  (I am not making a value judgement here), then people begin to generalize and think of women as less "in general" as less involved in their careers. 

Honestly, if I had not limited myself earlier in my career, my firm would be even larger.   I spent the first 10 years resisting growth.  And larger is not necessarily better, but we have had to pass on some really nice projects because we could not fit them in our schedules, or did not have the right staff.  Part of my feeling successful is looking at all of the younger architects that have grown and learned at my firm, have a nice work environment, great benefits, pay that can support a company, and mostly knowing that we have incredible clients who depend on us to be part of their team.  For me, that would have been harder to do with a more laid back firm.

I am all for people tailoring their work to their lifestyle, their goals and their definition of success.  It is just that a majority of women have a less "traditional" approach people come to view women in general not participating in their careers as much. 

And it is possible to have a bigger firm and still have a great family life, etc.  I spent tons of time with my kids, did the pta thing, was at all their sports games, and I still volunteer in their old elementary school one morning a month just to get my kid "fix"!

archinet
Nov 8, 11 1:16 pm

.

archinet
Nov 8, 11 1:43 pm

well i am a twenty something year old and I have seen sexism at school and at work. only male students get digital fabrication TA ships at my school, and mostly male students win all the awards. as for work I have been in offices with 80% male's hired, got looked up and down time and again from the project manager and heard of stories about the older staff that I am afraid of posting on this website...how about a post calling out all the sexist schools and offices out there!

oh yeah, I would not take 4 years off to have kids, I would split the time with my significant other or he can go out the door. finally I am interested in CD's, construction management, working in development and having my own office asap.....i am just afraid it might not be a baby boomer thing

miss casual
Nov 8, 11 2:11 pm

For whatever its worth, I tend to not be optimistic about opportunities for women after prolonged part time work because architecture is so competitive now. Maybe its the tradition of the old boys club compounded by the fact that there is such high unemployment among architects that given the choice between someone who has been out of the field for 5 years and someone who knows the latest version of Revit and how to upgrade from LEED beta forms or whatnot that the gap in employment becomes more relevant.

In general it is reinforced again and again that women earn 77 cents for every dollar a man earns but thats not a fair statistic in some regards. If you are talking about young urban single professionals women out earn men now. The numbers of women in the workforce is growing leaps and bounds. Maybe architecture is on the back end of it and trying to catch up? I think the fact that lots more households will look differently now (maybe only one income, dad stays at home, multiple generations living together) after the economic crisis might lead to more flexible workplaces. Or at least I hope that it will.

All I know is that I am SO thankful to have a job where i can walk out the door every day at 5 to see my kid. I know that at lots of bigger firms that's not the case. 

Quizzical7
Dec 29, 11 10:13 am

These forum responses are really interesting. I have decided to look into it further for my dissertation, and was wondering if anyone would mind completing an anonymous survey??
If you wouldn’t mind your responses would be greatly appreciated…. Please click on the link below.
http://madcapsule.co.uk/dev/gender/gender.php

Donna SinkDonna Sink
Dec 29, 11 11:21 am

Done.

ericmaas
Dec 29, 11 7:04 pm

Kira Gould has some great comments on this in her book, Women of Green:

http://www.amazon.com/Women-Green-Voices-Sustainable-Design/dp/097490337X

She features architects like Sarah Nettleton, who have been in the industry for years and withstood the male dominance. 

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