Companies in the top-quartile for gender diversity on their executive teams are 21% more likely to have above-average profitability (McKinsey&Company).

Yet, while women enter the architectural education system at equal rates to their male counterparts (50%), there is a reduction in numbers for those who qualify to become Architects (26%), and a staggering drop-off when it comes to women in leadership positions within architectural practices (10%).

Dezeens’ survey revealed that just 3 of the 100 top architecture practices are headed by women, which according to the statistics above is just bad for business.

image 1

(Image: Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture. Reference below)

The Problem:

Twice as hard

As a woman in this industry, the old adage; ‘you need to work twice as hard to be considered half as good’ unfortunately still rings true. You’ve prepared and checked the drawings, practiced and rehearsed your presentations; you are prepared.

Unfortunately, you’ve overlooked something critical, the unconscious bias; you weren’t prepared to be ignored in meetings or spoken over by your male counterpart, prepared to have your decisions questioned or verified by your male colleagues. This often leaves many women dumbfounded, ‘Did that just happen?’ is the prevailing question on their mind, rather than ‘How do I become an Associate or Director?’

Talent Gap:

As a young, ambitious, and talented architect, when I made decisions on where I wanted to work, I used salient decision-making tools; I asked myself ‘Is there anyone that looks like me?’. My theory was, if a company is wise and open-minded enough to draw from a diverse pool, then that’s where I want to be; to grow, to develop, to contribute to, to make money for. If there was only one type of person as I scrolled through their ‘Team’ page, I just moved on!

Some Solutions:

Sit at the Table

Men still make most of decisions in practices – fact. So, perhaps more men need to be part of the discussion on how we move towards more gender equal practices. We should be employing the most talented person for the job; if you exclude 50% of your pool, you do your company, and therefore bottom line a disservice.

Sponsorship, not Mentorship

‘Sponsorship’ is the creation of opportunities by people in positions of leadership, both women and men, for women to progress through a company. While I champion mentorship being a mentor myself, I strongly believe true progress comes with the concept of ‘sponsorship’. When both men and women stand up for equality, we begin to reach a place where all feel supported and empowered to thrive and bring forth greatness individually and for our company.

image 2

(image: Architects’ Journal AJ100. Reference below)

More of the same

Speaking recently with a prominent London developer, they vehemently claimed that they chose the practices they worked with due of the quality of their work, and the experience they brought to the table. When they named these practices, all of them had women in positions of leadership. While not scientific, is there a correlation between their choice of practice (giving them more work, more fees, more prominence) and the women in leadership? Does having female leaders give a salient signal to clients that these practices value different thinking, varying skillsets, and a growth mindset?

Family time:

It’s an oldie but a goodie; if we employ men, knowing they will ‘have’ to take a mandatory amount of time off when their baby is born, ‘have’ to go pick up a sick child from school, ‘have’ to work flexible hours to accommodate family life, then perhaps our hiring mentality can start to change. We are whole beings, with whole lives, and when we bring our whole selves to work, the office place benefits from it.

In conclusion, hopefully many of us would agree that ‘more diverse companies, are better able to win top talent and improve their customer orientation, employee satisfaction, and decision making, and all this leads to a virtuous cycle of increasing returns.’ (McKinsey&Co)

So, perhaps it’s your turn to raise her bottom line?

Recommended Reads:

  1. Lean In: https://work.qz.com/1098693/sheryl-sandberg-mckinsey-and-leanin-org-study-has-sobering-statistics-on-gender-diversity-in-business/
  2. https://www.mckinsey.com/~/media/McKinsey/Business%20Functions/Organization/Our%20Insights/Delivering%20through%20diversity/Delivering-through-diversity_full-report.ashx
  3. https://www.dezeen.com/2017/11/17/female-architects-respond-architecture-gender-survey-worlds-biggest-firms/
  4. https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/organization/our-insights/why-diversity-matters
  5. https://www.dezeen.com/2018/03/05/help-us-move-the-needle-on-gender-equality/
  6. https://www.dezeen.com/2017/11/16/survey-leading-architecture-firms-reveals-shocking-lack-gender-diversity-senior-levels/
  7. https://www.internationalwomensday.com/
  8. https://www.world-architects.com/en/architecture-news/insight/a-short-survey-of-women-in-architecture
  9. https://www.architectsjournal.co.uk/news/number-of-women-architects-in-aj100-practices-rises-again/10007191.article

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