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    Where are the women? Measuring progress on gender in architecture

    By Lian Chikako Chang
    Oct 3, '14 11:23 AM EST

    Lian Chikako Chang

    With recent conversations on gender in architecture fueled by Julia Morgan being the first woman to receive an AIA Gold Medal, the controversy around the Pritzker Prize and Denise Scott Brown (shout out to Women in Design and to DSB who celebrates her birthday today), and of course, the energy and organization that The Missing 32% Project has brought to the table, we wanted to make a contribution of our own. With data graphics, naturally!

    We gathered up some publicly available (but not necessarily commonly known) statistics on the topic, and corralled them into the following three charts. For links to sources and a (very) long discussion about the nuances of this data, please visit the ACSA website.

    As you look higher in the architectural profession or in academia, you see fewer women. Even in architecture school today, only about 40% of students are women, and the numbers start dropping off sharply, from around 40% to around 25% and fewer when we start looking at practice and higher levels in the profession and academia.

    You might be thinking that this data on prize winners, going back several decades, don’t necessarily represent the situation for the current generation of women. And you’d be right. Breaking down the gender split among the winners of top awards in practice and academia by decade, in the above chart, we can see that women have been increasingly recognized since the 1980s. But, significantly, even in the most recent years since 2010, fewer than one in five of these awards have gone to women.

    This last chart is a time series, showing how the proportion of women in architecture has changed over the past few decades. This seems to be a “leaky pipeline” problem rather than a simple generational delay, because while the number of female students and graduates has stabilized at around 40% in recent years, the number of women working in architect roles has also stopped increasing, and has not gone much higher than 25%.

    If our goal is to find ways to support women in progressing and achieving within the discipline and profession of architecture at rates more equal to those of men, the data reviewed here suggest that we should focus particularly on two areas: first, what happens before applying to and enrolling in architecture school; and second, what happens at higher levels in the profession, academia, and related practices. 

    I'd be happy to discuss the data in the comments section below. If you're looking for more details, please check out the full post at ACSA then come back here to comment! 


    • ROB4

      I believe in equality however hiring quality applicants should always surpass what you are , black , hispanic , woman, man, etc . 

      Riding the equality card to get to the top is absurd 

      Oct 3, 14 1:27 pm  · 

      I find the comment about "Riding the Equality Card" sad and comical. Sexism and Gender Bias are real and "Riding the INequality Card is what many face today". To ignore it and say "ah well, that is just the way it is" is not good enough anymore and there is a resounding volume of that from all over the world to change the status quo.

      If you look around you, approx. 1/2 of the world's population is the other gender. Whether you are male or female (or somewhere in between) The movement is about Equity and not self-segregation or victims or blame. It is about ACTION, change that can improve all of our lives. Equity is not just a women's issue, everyone has a stake in it: Economic, quality of life, and the ability for more to THRIVE. Why would we be against anyone's ability to have equal access?

      The movement is not just in architecture. The world is changing around us and striving for Equity is the right thing to do. Look at the UN campaign called #HeforShe, ShriverReport, Clinton Foundation, etc. Even tech companies like Google are exposing Implicit Bias and looking to change the demographics of their workforce/Talent.

      Information is the start, discussion about the challenges, then followed by Action. 

      In the words of Emma Watson, "If not me, WHO? If not now, When?

      Oct 4, 14 3:30 pm  · 

      ROB4, women and even moreso ethnic minorities in the US are not in any way "riding" any easy path to the top. The fact is they've had to struggle and work twice as hard to get half as much as white men - speaking, of course, in generalities.

      The implication that you think it's some kind of surf vacation to get equal treatment shows that you have a limited self-awareness and understanding of just how much you have likely benefitted from our social structure that overwhelmingly makes life harder for minorities and women.

      Oct 4, 14 4:07 pm  · 
      drums please, Fab?

      The fact is they've had to struggle and work twice as hard to get half as much as white men - speaking, of course, in generalities.

      design, bitches (please)!

      ... our social structure that overwhelmingly makes life harder for minorities and women.

      asians are doing better than the oh-so-privaliged whites with regard to graduation rates and unemployment.  what's up with that?  i mean, they're minorities for crying out loud !?!

      Oct 4, 14 9:01 pm  · 

      Its the income inequality (which is partially caused by the social structure) that makes life harder.  Asians who immigrate here are typically wealthier and more educated  than Hispanics that immigrate here simply because of geographic proximity.   Yes of course income imbalance among blacks is due to the residual effects of racial segregation, and of course there is still much racism, but overall a rich black kid has better chances to get ahead than a poor white kid.  Race is a factor but money is certainly the dominant factor.  Rather than wasting time debating about racism (which will never go away no matter how many words we soften) make education more affordable and get rid of the bullshit barriers to entry that weed out people with economic and family obligations.  Perhaps the imbalance in architecture is due to the fact that no black kid with a ton of expenses from a poor neighborhood is going to invest 100k into an education that requires years of aditional interning for shit pay to get licensed.  Hmm an that be it???Bad investment for those who do not have the luxury of choosing a "labor of love".  And for women, this drawn out process starts to creep into those early 30 something's where many people want to have kids.  

      Basically, if you want a more equitable and diverse profession make it more accessible.  As of now this profession is designed for the privileged, so no surprise it reflects the demographic of the privileged in our society.  Sensitivity training won't do shit. Just bs to make people feel better about themselves.  

      Oct 4, 14 10:11 pm  · 
      drums please, Fab?

      and to keep 'non profits' profitable

      Oct 4, 14 11:03 pm  · 

      Look, maybe racism of one person laying misplaced perceptions on an entire race of people will never go away, just like some people will never stop thinking homosexuality is immoral.  Minds are hard to change.  

      But we've built a society that entrenches unfairness within it, and since we built it we can tear it down and rebuild it in a way that actually *does* offer an equal opportunity for all. The myth of equal opportunity is a lie in this country - it absolutely does not exist.  Some people have no choice but to spend far more of their energy on dispelling misunderstandings of who they are based solely on how they look than others do.

      I mean, come on, Frac and jla-x: assuming you are both white males, don't you get tired of hearing the constant bashing of old white males that happens in our media in recent years? If you have and don't like it, then don't whine about how unfair it is; instead acknowledge that this kind of cultural bashing has been and is currently happening FAR more frequently to women and to people of color and in far more insidious, unconscious ways.  Calling attention to unequal treatment, and the very quiet, silently-accepted ways that inequality is accepted, even promoted, in our culture, is part of how we move past it.

      jla-x, on the other thread on this you called these graphs "unscientific" which is just wrong. Hate the message, not the messenger.

      Oct 5, 14 8:57 am  · 

      Right, it will not completely go away and the idea that racism is something white guys only do is completely incorrect.  Having spent much time in east Africa I can assure you that racism exists between one black group and another and between just about every group.  Racism is a product of ignorance which is a product of poor education.   Sexism is also a product of ignorance, but it would be completely false to say that racism and sexism are one in the same.   A white man and black man have the same exact biology.  The Same exact brain.  Man and women do not.   We are biologically different.   Yes some gender roles are cultural but there are real differences in the general overall brain of a man and woman.  All I'm saying.  Also at the end of the day women make babies.  This is 100% fact.  Men do not make babies.  This is an obstacle for a woman's career especially in architecture  where the system of licensure has delayed their ability to be independent from "the boss man".  I know several women who have left architecture to have a baby and could not return because the pay was too low to justify paying for daycare.  The best route to "equality" is independence.  This route is being stifles by these ridiculous barriers to entry.  If I had a dime for everytime i heard someone ask whether they should go to NYC or LA... For the big internship...not an option for a mom with a newborn or a young black kid without the support from mom and dad.  

      So like I said, if the system favors privilege then don't be surprised when the profession has similar demographics as the privileged.   

      Oct 5, 14 3:36 pm  · 

      When I was on the precipice of getting licensed I looked up how many african america architects where licensed in California, in the United States, and then who was the first African American to become a member of the AIA (American Institute of Architects).  It was pretty shocking to see that in California there are only 200 licensed African American architects, and maybe 2,000 throughout the country.  And I found out that Paul Revere Williams was the first African American to the AIA.  Personally having a father who is African American (the first African American Marine Officer in the State of Colorado) and a mother who is Anglo American (both who have been in education as teachers and administrators 40 years or more), I realized that I was jumping into a profession that was staggeringly different from most of the professions in the country, by far.

      This being said I can understand the desire to have a more equal balance of woman in the profession.  Though I think there is a systemic issues within the profession and the country as a whole that is far greater than just sexism.  That is a major issue but I think the profession as a whole represents some of the more raw aspects of our society than people want to believe.  As a profession we know before anyone else when a economic downturn is going to, or is taking place.  We as a profession can see through our training and observation areas that are significantly under appreciated, overvalued, or mindlessly designed.

      After a little research I started to dive into why there were so few blacks/African Americans in the profession and how this may have occurred and why it was currently taking place, in such a seemingly well adjusted world. As I dug deeper into the issue it goes as far back as slave trade, the Emancipation Proclamation, but even more recently in the 1930's during the Great Depression and Theodore Roosevelt's New Deal, which outlined programs like the Social Security Act, Federal Housing Authority (FHA),  Home Owners Loan Cooperation (HOLC), and many others.

      Organizations like the FHA, HOLC, and the Social Security Act, were designed to protect the privileged white and isolate and contain non-white in various areas through efforts like "Redlining."   Redlining was authorized by the government through the HOLC and carried out by the FHA.  This process of creating these maps was referred to as creating Residential Security Maps, which was carried out by local non-government employee real estate agents.  These agents went around areas and designated the potential fiscal trajectory of a neighborhood based on how many minorities existed within these areas.  If there weren't any then the area high a high potential of success if there were a few then it was Redlined.  And within the Codes and Covenants of a property certain people couldn't even buy into these neighborhoods.  This is how I originally found out about them was by reading about Paul Revere Williams.  He was building amazing homes in neighborhoods who couldn't live in because of the deed restrictions.  

      So there were a lot of things that wen't wrong with the New Deal for certain portions of society, and there is an amazing book that talks about a lot of these issues, called Black Wealth/White Wealth by Thomas Shapiro and Melvin Oliver.  Social security was limited to certain people, home loans wouldn't be given to certain people, home loans wouldn't be granted by the FHA in certain areas, Red Areas, so there were many issues that have helped to keep the country we live in very separated on various levels.  If you can't invest in your home, which is America's number one saving and investment strategy then you don't have the opportunity to increase property taxes, if you don't increase property taxes you don't invest in your infrastructure, or your schools.  More recently there was a reverse Redlining where banks went back into these areas after 80 years of not providing equitable loans and dished out ARM loans or loans where the penalty was a crazy APR.  Thus banks were able to strategically not only whip out what little investment these areas had through repossession they were able to more completely control areas through their activities.  The FHA was a means by which people could purchase a home through government backed loans.  You couldn't get one if you lived or were looking to live in a Redlined area.  The FHA allowed people who lost everything in the great depression purchase homes with little or no cash invested.  This allowed things like Levittown, New York to thrive, though that also had other issues with the CC&R's and Dead Restrictions which didn't allow veterans of color to purchase homes with their GI bill in these pre planned neighborhoods.

      Black Wealth/White Wealth is worth a read.  But to the point of having more woman within the profession I have never thought in my mind that there aren't enough woman in any office that I have worked in.  I have been very fortunate to work some very talented and driven woman who are amazing designers.  It is true that at the top of the firm structure or within the awards processions there are few woman that are recognized for their talents and contribution to the profession, since the earliest points within the profession, considering this is the second oldest profession in the world.  It is a little concerning that the lack of African Americans or Blacks who are within the profession.  It is far more startling to me.

      Oct 5, 14 6:28 pm  · 
      Lian Chikako Chang

      Thanks for all the comments.

      Willard Williams, absolutely, there is a huge lack of ethnic diversity in architecture. BLS data shows that there are more minority CEOs (90.6% white) than architects (91.3% white), which is pretty crazy when you think about it. The history that you provide here is interesting.  

      You might be interested in this chart that we did in April on the over- and under-representation of different groups (by ethnicity and gender) within architecture academia. The chart does take a few moments to parse (I'm thinking we should re-publish it, to break down the data more legibly) but it definitely speaks to the things you're describing.

      ACSA will be publishing more on ethnicity and other diversity topics, to be sure.

      Oct 6, 14 2:53 pm  · 

      Willard, thanks for that long post. You are correct that the challenges of ethnic diversity and gender diversity are very different and rooted in different histories, with some similarities.  jla-x, I do agree with you on that point, too.

      However, when the issue of this imbalance, either gender or race, is raised, there are always some canned knee-jerk responses to both, and the ways to address them also have some similarities.

      Personally, I learned about redlining and the history of US suburban/city development in architecture undergrad in the 80s.  Granted, I took an urban design track in my BArch degree, but could it be that students in more recent years do *not* know the history of redlining, white flight/gated communities etc?  Are the schools deleting all their liberal arts/history classes in favor of advanced parametric classes? If so that's a shame, and a mistake.

      Lian, you guys are doing such awesome work with this project! I used four of your other charts (related to other career options chosen by arch grads) in a talk I gave at the IN-KY AIA convention last week, and pointed all the attendees to your website. Looking forward to more!

      Oct 6, 14 3:23 pm  · 
      Lian Chikako Chang

      Thanks so much, Donna! It is GREAT to hear that the data and graphics have been helpful.

      Oct 6, 14 4:05 pm  · 


      great, can you beleive it ! We are not equal in history and not today

      some feministik work from CINE ARCHITECTURE

       Right now Im working with a study that I started with in Paris as a part of my study in Architecture and Art. Its about female proprotions in the grammar in architecture, Of course in history the mens body and mind has been the issue. For example who I studied in Paris was Le Corbusier Vitruvius etc The old grammar in Architecture

      I call my study LA MODULOR

      The study LA MODULOR is based on observations om my own body and mind and space and time. To me art and architecture connect more and more on an deeper plane inside the human as archetypes.

      I show you some examples of my study









      If we dont get equal we will create empty rooms in the future !

      Agneta "Kickan" Eriksson Hilden

      Jun 5, 15 11:43 pm  · 

      ^ perhaps you should look into the role of caryatids and what that reflects about architecture's view of women. I take no stance on this.

      Jun 6, 15 2:31 am  · 

      Great and lovely

      my point of veiw is WHO expresses it in society In the polical room


      Jun 6, 15 3:11 am  · 

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The Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture is a nonprofit membership organization, founded in 1912 to advance the quality of architectural education. Our members are over 250 schools, including all accredited programs in the USA and Canada, schools seeking accreditation, and non-accredited and international programs--representing over 40,000 architecture faculty and students.

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  • Michael Monti
    Michael Monti Washington, DC, US
  • Lian Chikako Chang
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