Women in Architecture: what’s holding us back?

Equilibrium Steering Group member, KIRSTEN LEES, has sent us this note about a fascinating event that was held at Grimshaw last week.

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It was great to see so many attendees at our recent WIA panel event: Women in Architecture: What’s holding us back?

Thanks to Caroline Cole, Barbara Lane and Rachel Short for joining me in what proved to be a thought-provoking and invigorating evening. It was also great to see so many male colleagues; as Rachel suggested, somewhat controversially, there were three categories of men – and these were the good guys (!) i Thanks to Caroline Cole, Barbara Lane and Rachel Short for joining me in what proved to be a thought-provoking and invigorating evening. It was also great to see so many male colleagues; as Rachel suggested, somewhat controversially, there were three categories of men – and these were the good guys (!) interested in the debate, and keen to affect change. If there were any second-category dinosaurs they definitely remained well hidden in the undergrowth. The third category – the silent bystanders that make up the majority – were keeping mute.

I would argue however that the majority of men within our industry are ‘good guys’ I challenge you to find any male who doesn’t actively believe that women have a place in architecture, and who fully support efforts to make the situation better. The question is whether they all fall back to the ‘customary’ role of being silent bystanders when the everyday pressures of work resume? But aren’t we all guilty of this? How many women remain actively involved throughout the year? It is a shame that the pattern each year seems to repeat itself where there is a flurry of activity around the annual AR WIA survey, the WIA Awards and International Women’s Day before we all get consumed again by the pressures of doing our job. Perhaps this is why each one of us on the panel responded with variations on the same theme to the question from the floor, ‘What is the single most important thing that will improve the situation?’ “Keep it on the agenda” was the resounding response.

I for one have seen the difference it has made at Grimshaw this last year where we have quietly included gender balance every time we talk amongst the partners about promotions, project opportunities and recruitment. We have introduced a number of simple measures into our standard procedures that have, even in a relatively short space of time, started to make a real difference. This is why the Equilibrium Network is so important, in that it allows us to reach a wide range of organisations and ensure that the goal of reaching gender balance at all levels, and in particular around the board room table, is kept firmly at the top of the agenda. We know it makes a difference.

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