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Glass ceilings - not a pleasant topic - honest contributions are welcomed

Feb 25 '13 30 Last Comment
observant
Feb 25, 13 6:30 pm

The concept of the glass ceiling is nothing new.  It means that demographics impact one's ascent in an organization.

Let's talk about architecture.  Architecture is often termed "a good old boy's network."  In many metros, especially secondary ones, principals at different firms seemingly know each other, went to school with each other, and gossip within earshot about other offices, and even the personal lives of those in leadership positions.  One hot topic was who was getting divorced. 

This thread dovetails another somewhat recent thread about the sexual preference of architects.  The prevalence of GLB people is higher in architecture than it is in other fields, and one only need look around their schools and/or offices.I found it interesting is that this was a front-burner topic in a creative area like architecture school, yet in large undergraduate curricula of other types, this sort of thing was hardly discussed or shrugged off.   Knowing the ownership (alphabet soup initialed) structure of numerous firms, the ownership (principal) structure was almost always comprised of upper middle-class, or higher, married men.  Implicitly barred from these ranks, in many, not all, cases, were women, singles, persons thought to be GLB, and talented foreign individuals who had strong accents and/or were not as "assimilated."  I saw this in architecture school.  Some professors really called attention to themselves, with a constant need to refer to their marital status, that students thought "What's up with that?" 

I went to grad school single and after waiting about a handful of years.  There are fewer married people in architecture school because, let's face it, a spouse is more likely to accommodate a spouse in medical or law school than they would in architecture school.  I got stung by this only once.  Toward the end of my curriculum, I had some electives to toy with.  I wanted to do an independent study on more current developments in glass enclosure systems (curtain walls, etc.) and their detailing to effectively keep out the elements. I approached a professor in the construction area who was on the cusp of retiring and was also overly religious.  I told him what I wanted to do for some credit and he disconnectedly said "I see ... and there are important things ... like family." I thought: he was off his rocker, and also lazy because he was tenured and a hair away from retiring.  Interestingly enough, we had gone on a firm tour with this professor and some out of his outbursts were so odd and "flamboyant," that the elbow of a fellow studio student landed in my ribcage, because he was trying to keep from laughing at what this professor was saying.

Architecture is a lot like Hollywood.  It, too, is a creative venue, yet has a very marked culture of internalized homophobia.  The same appears to be somewhat true in architecture.  I've heard principals and upper management ridicule past employees about their demographics.  A good friend of mine was also the subject of gossip.  This was a guy with an accredited degree, a quick pass of the ARE, and an incredible work ethic, having toured his built commercial work.  Any office should be thankful to have him. He would have been in his late 20s to early 30s at the time, single, and soft spoken - not as in the quality of his voice, but the scarcity of words.  The gossip mill impacted him as well.  He eventually moved to another office, where he continued his competent work, and then married and started a young family.

I may seem like an ass because I like to point out where the profession could improve.  The reality is that I would like to see the underdogs get better conditions, which is a pipe dream.  I would like to see more uniformity in architectural curricula, stopping the milking of the intern through IDP, touted as a guise to produce better rounded architects,  ending the free or below market rate payment of interns with serious corresponding sanctions (license suspensions) to the principals of these firms who are busy circulating at cocktail parties, and the discrimination that is based on gender, nationality, "alumni club" factor in some offices, and/or marital status.

So, back to the gist of the thread, do you see that architectural firm ownership is the domain of well-connected, better pedigreed, middle-aged or older, married men?  Do you have examples of this?  Sure, for those who don't fit "the mold," there's always the "boutique" option.  Let's not sweep this under the rug because it's real.  It's amazing that some of the top brass straddles a line between being so "metro" or does a bad job of appearing macho, yet so dismissive of unmarried and/or women employees in promotional opportunities. 

 

FRaC
Feb 25, 13 6:42 pm

.

observant
Feb 25, 13 7:07 pm

^

Thanks.  It's interesting how the profession so badly wants "DISCOURSE" in education, in studios populated with introverts, and in the profession, where no one can agree on anything whereas other professions galvanize, and then we get posts like this.  I see SOME humor.

How about making a well-articulated argument?  Anyone?

accesskb
Feb 26, 13 1:22 am

glass ceiling?  i no understand..

zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

Thecyclist
Feb 26, 13 6:46 am

I'm wondering if principals end up being these type of men you describe because they are chosen based on their personality/lifestyle to be put on the principal path, or if these men have something in them which leads to being principals (leadership, confidence, etc.)

It's interesting how you mention the 'boutique path'.  When I was first reading your post, I immediately began to think about the younger wave of architects to counter your point, however, these younger architects seem to be doing the 'boutique' work - this is assuming I understand what boutique work is.  To me, it's small to medium scale projects, maybe just a temporary installation or adaptive reuse. 

distant
Feb 26, 13 9:57 am

"do you see that architectural firm ownership is the domain of well-connected, better pedigreed, middle-aged or older, married men"

No. Anyone with a license can establish their own firm and the degree to which they are successful depends on a wide variety of factors, including ability, work ethic, intelligence and, to some degree, luck.

I know quite a few successful firm principals who meet none of the characteristics you describe above.

Jadzia
Feb 26, 13 10:29 am

Observant, you little chatterbox - getting straight to the point isn't really your forte, but I give this a try. ^^

So you're saying that architectural firm ownership is the domain of well-connected, better pedigreed,  older married men.
That is the case in most companies - so I wouldn't be surprised that architectural firms  meet the standard here. Architects are a bunch of normal people after all. 

On that note:
I'm working for some (alphabet soup initialed) firm where the ownership includes as well a gay person as non-native people with accents.
Honestly I never thought about that beeing either especially cool, weird or non-standard in any way.

There is still a wage gap between men and women working in architecure, but that isn't part of the problem "glass ceilings" I guess.
 

observant
Feb 26, 13 10:46 am

Thanks for the dialogue that is occurring.  Jadzia, the chatter(box) is about examples, and setting the context in which I have seen these things.  The reason why I even brought it up is because, for a creative field, the frequency I've seen it is offputting.  I had to share going in to discuss wanting to do a research paper on curtain walls and, out of left field, being told about the importance of family by an effeminate, right-wing Bible thumping professor, at around 30-ish.  That was classic!

So, I'll cut to the chase:  I've seen more verbal barbs thrown around about GLB employees, typically once they've left or behind their backs, and by higher-ups.  I've seen the traditional glass ceiling and wage disparity more in evidence for women.  I think that's because a few of the firms I've worked for were narrow minded, with very little diversity in the employee pool.  The large, progressive, urban firm should not demonstrate such limits.

The stories, admittedly a little lengthy, provide the glue to the commonality of the observations.  In some cases, if you got the employees together, took pictures that were "unlabeled," you can pick out the principals/partners because they have a "requisite" look.  Most of the time, I find this to be the case, and sometimes not.

At least, some dialogue is coming in.  Sorry for the length of the OP.

quizzical
Feb 26, 13 11:24 am

One's view depends, I suppose, on one's experiences. My own experience suggests that our profession tends to reflect society as a whole. We have our share of intolerance and we have our share of acceptance. We have an element that tends towards social conservatism and we have an element that tends towards social liberalism and we have everything in between.

From my own broad perspective in the profession (over 40 years) I've seen the profession take great strides in accepting, and promoting, those who may not fit your "middle-aged or older, married men" stereotype. In many ways, I believe we are more accepting, as a group, than society as a whole. However, we still have progress to make going forward.

In the end, I believe that true contribution - in all of its dimensions - is the primary determinant of upward movement in most firms. There are exceptions, to be sure. And, the concept of "true contribution" always is open to interpretation - different people have different ideas about what makes a firm successful. However, IMHO, "true contribution" must be viewed in very broad terms - it can be incredibly multidimensional.

Nevertheless, my exposure to a large number of firms, and a large number of practitioners, over a long period to time suggests to me that most firms in our industry operate in a fundamentally meritocratic fashion. It's hard for firms to compete in this very rigorous profession so why would any intelligent firm deliberately exclude those who make a strong contribution?

won and done williams
Feb 26, 13 1:03 pm

observant, your posts are filled with so many cynical generalizations and stereotypes, it makes it difficult to reply to a topic that does merit discussion. As with most generalizations, I think there is a grain of truth of your observations, i.e. if you looked at the demographics of firm principals, they would trend towards "middle-aged or older, married men." Does this necessarily equate to a "boy's club" that restricts membership? In a minority of cases, perhaps yes, but I would not say it is overt discrimination that led to this trend, but rather years of being provided opportunity, i.e. education, social access, etc., that others may not have been afforded. I believe this is changing and will continue to change.

Fundamentally, quizzical is correct, being promoted to leadership happens as a result of some combination of skill, merit, and risk - traits that are independent of demographics. While it may take years to change the institutional barriers to access (and I do believe they are changing), the best way for individuals to break through the ceiling is by cultivating the types of skills that are necessary to take on the role of leadership.

toasteroven
Feb 26, 13 1:27 pm

I'm wondering if principals end up being these type of men you describe because they are chosen based on their personality/lifestyle to be put on the principal path, or if these men have something in them which leads to being principals (leadership, confidence, etc.)

 

IMO - leadership/management traits are often the same traits that make people desirable mates and parents.

observant
Feb 26, 13 2:44 pm

observant, your posts are filled with so many cynical generalizations and stereotypes, it makes it difficult to reply to a topic that does merit discussion. As with most generalizations, I think there is a grain of truth of your observations

Thank you.  Sociologists, social psychologists and profilers are necessary occupations in today's society.  They are there, in fact, to study group behavior and attributes.  I did acknowledge that, in a dynamic firm, this would not matter.  I was referring to many mid-sized firms, probably in secondary markets.  Like I said, I find it appalling when this occurs.  And, you're probably right, the fact that, in the OP, I cited that my very NORMAL friend was scarce on words, and probably seen as reserved, and also single at the time, made it where he was not identified as a rainmaker or person worth elevating in the firm.  If enough people come to the same conclusions, then there is a grain of truth in generalizations.

Good dialogue, btw.

b3tadine[sutures]
Feb 26, 13 4:51 pm

"This thread dovetails another somewhat recent thread about the sexual preference of architects.  The prevalence of GLB people is higher in architecture than it is in other fields, and one only need look around their schools and/or offices."

 

Perhaps the reason discourse is lacking, is because your grossly stupid statements make it seem like you're incapable of having a real give & take.

 

I mean "preference" really? Have we not sufficiently evolved to realize that LGBT is not a "preference?" Secondly, your statement about GLB being higher in our profession, really? Where'd you get your stats, from Dnesh D'Souza?

 

Why don't you stop trying to be Fredo, before someone takes you fishing.

observant
Feb 26, 13 6:27 pm

Sorry, who is Dinesh D'Souza or Fredo?  Famous people?  Ok, I looked them up.  The Fredo reference is tacky and unnecessary. I didn't mean to be respectful.  Maybe I should have said sexual identity.  I don't identify as a conservative.  You're incorrect on this one, if that's what you think.

Give and take? I am giving and taking.  That's my perception, having studied in another part of the university prior to architecture.  That stereotype was also bandied about throughout the university, and shrugged off like "water off a duck's back." I listen to others' opinions and why they perceive in the manner they do.

When you tell someone you are an architect, 80% of people will say "Wow, I always wanted to be an architect, but I was bad at math" and 20% of people will sort of look you up and down as in "Oh, you're a creative type."  A friend of mine who ultimately ended up with a marketing degree met with disapproval from his mother when he expressed an interest in architecture and design.

In a work situation, I was stunned at how the top brass, good old boys, were talking about a developer client's sexuality as we are moving around an AutoCAD puck for this project.  I didn't need to know that.  They should have felt thankful to have the commission.  My disappointment was certainly NOT with the client, but with the architects' discussing this information, in addition to speaking negatively of a previous employee based on his sexual identity.

So, to others who are looking to discuss and not spar, have you seen this sort of dynamic?

On the fence
Feb 27, 13 2:40 pm

I think that if you are looking for something to be there, you will find it.

Looks like you found it.

FRaC
Feb 27, 13 2:57 pm

one grain in an entire elevator

observant
Feb 27, 13 3:15 pm

^

Read the "weasel" thread currently running.  Basically, it says the same thing - "shit under a different name still smells the same."  Don't need to look very hard.  It slaps you in the face, actually.

FRaC
Feb 27, 13 3:34 pm

*mirror*

observant
Feb 27, 13 4:02 pm

No, dude, you couldn't be more wrong.  No rich parents. No silver spoon. Down to earth practical major prior to a-school.  "A student" in all my studies.  Quick pass of the ARE.  Generalist in the work setting.  S.E.s tell me "for an architect, you really seem to have an understanding and appreciation of what we do."  Most likely to get selected as an IDP sponsor/mentor by new people in the office. I could go on, but you get the idea.

Don't even go there, with your 3,500 comments.

s=r*(theta)
Feb 27, 13 5:22 pm

"The prevalence of GLB people is higher in architecture than it is in other fields" lol,i thgt the music and fashion industry had architecture beat along time ago!

all i can say as a minority is that i find it overwhelmingly interesting that a field which claims to pride its self on being the epitome of the highest form of art and intellectualism, is grossly behind as far as diversity, and genuine humility.

will gallowaywill galloway
Feb 27, 13 6:37 pm

What do we need humility for ?

observant
Feb 27, 13 6:40 pm

^

It's an endearing quality.  If you were raised in one of the Christian faiths, and I assume you  were, you realize that the President and a janitor are on the same tier in the eyes of the Almighty.  Not a holy roller, by any stretch, but I believe that.  I wish more people did. It's the source of a lot of societal problems.

FRaC
Feb 27, 13 7:10 pm

*mirror*

i'm awesome so awesome people tell me i'm awesome and awesome and ... I could go on, but you get the idea.

observant
Feb 27, 13 7:34 pm

*mirror*

i'm awesome so awesome people tell me i'm awesome and awesome and ... I could go on, but you get the idea.

Quit while you're ahead and/or grow up.

Nothing says awesome.  It says "rolled up the sleeves."

will gallowaywill galloway
Feb 27, 13 9:15 pm

possibly better to offer respect than humility.

where do i apply to check my awesomeness ?  my numbers gotta be waaay up there.

observant
Feb 27, 13 9:27 pm

Humility and respect are somewhat interconnected.

s=r*(theta)
Feb 27, 13 10:03 pm

"the President and a janitor are on the same tier in the eyes of the Almighty.  Not a holy roller, by any stretch, but I believe that.  I wish more people did. It's the source of a lot of societal problems."

Agreed!

curtkram
Feb 27, 13 11:04 pm

god doesn't establish hierarchies?  does that mean i'm equal to the pope and a saint and a cardinal and a bishop and a monk and everyone else in god's eyes?  i want red shoes!!!!  but i don't get red shoes, those are reserved for the pope. because god has a long history of judging some people better than others, doesn't he?  of course i suppose you could be referring specifically to americans, and that all americans are equal in god's eyes but the italians and gomorrahns and such are a different story.....

i'm also too awesome for humility, but i respect that your opinion may be different for whatever odd reason.

observant
Feb 27, 13 11:23 pm

god doesn't establish hierarchies?

No, humankind does.

will gallowaywill galloway
Feb 28, 13 3:52 am

Don't tell the pope that.

jla-x
Feb 28, 13 4:00 am

the President and a janitor are on the same tier in the eyes of the Almighty.  Not a holy roller, by any stretch, but I believe that.  I wish more people did. It's the source of a lot of societal problems

It's a lack of perspective...If more people only realised how big the universe is....

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