Women in Architecture

The life of a female architect… I don’t think it is much different from a guy working in a female hair salon surrounded by women. Women of architecture also work everyday surrounded by men. But the male hair stylist enjoys his job for entirely different reasons than a female architect does working in this male-dominated profession.

Personally, I enjoy being one of the rare few. But all women are not as fortunate as me to get the opportunities I’ve received in my life. I could talk about the lack of diversity in the profession, but I don’t believe it can be forcibly created. I could speak of the discrimination against women, but I don’t want to be mistaken as a feminist. I could make a list of inspiring and successful female architects, but the research would provide us with varied ideas and opinions on that. I could give you the statistics of how much less women make, but that’s a subject of discussion in a better economy. Instead of focusing on the complaints that women have towards the profession, I focused my efforts on doing a public survey in the past couple weeks. The purpose of the survey was to see how architectural thinking might differ between the two genders because, of course, women don’t work any less hard than men! I published the question in various non-architectural forums about how the general public perceives architecture and compared the notes between men and women. What separates a male from a female?

Here is the Men’s Top Five list of elements that make architecture successful in the order of repetition of comments (highest is #1).

  1. Indigenous materials
  2. Vernacular architecture, respect for historic context
  3. Environmental appropriateness
  4. NO big glass boxes, keep human scale
  5. Welcoming, inspiring

Women’s Top Five list:

  1. Art in architecture
  2. How the project makes one feel; welcoming, easy navigation
  3. Daylight
  4. Proportions
  5. Truthful structure

I was fortunate to interview three middle school girls just in time for this article to compare my findings with how a young girl might perceive architecture. It is no surprise that the overall experience is highly dependent on the mood and health. What do young girls look at when they visit buildings?

  1. Art and installations
  2. Colors and materials
  3. Surface texture
  4. Nature – greenery
  5. Eating options, play options

I find the survey results very intriguing. Men, women and children are looking for different things, but they are interrelated and all so important. You can’t have one and not the other. Similarly, this profession can’t be biased towards a person based on their gender. Not only is it illegal, but one will do disservice to their clients by focusing on a certain gender employees. We all bring something important to the table, and the more diverse a team is the better the architectural results will be. I’ve heard many people say that only B****’s can be successful in this profession. Does it have to be that way?

Men need to look at female architects with the same respect they look at male architects. We are no less qualified and work no less than them. On the other hand, the women of this profession should focus less on what’s put in their plate and utilize their energies into making success happen for themselves. Complaining doesn’t take you anywhere. Women have a higher endurance for pain, so they should have the capacity to boldly face the challenges that this profession poses. Opportunities may not present themselves; diversity won’t occur overnight; women’s success is in their own hands just like men’s.

Women can do everything men can do, and we can do it in high heels!

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