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Bullying on the rise in architecture school

Twenty per cent of female students say they have experienced bullying, while a shocking 54% suffered sexual discrimination at university

International students in education, year-out students and Part 2 architectural assistants make up almost a third of all respondents to the survey. Of these, 79 per cent are women and 93 per cent under the age of 30.

Despite being at the start of their architectural careers, 54 per cent of all female students say they have suffered some form of sexual discrimination. Thirty per cent say they have suffered or witnessed sexual discrimination monthly or quarterly, with 11 per cent experiencing sexual discrimination on a weekly or daily basis – the same level as reported by women architects around the globe.

The number of female student respondents who say they have been bullied at architecture school is also on the rise. Twenty per cent say they have experienced bullying – up five points on last year.

Citing the demands of the profession, long hours, and the lack of affordable childcare amongst the reasons, a shocking 88 per cent of female student respondents think having children puts women at a disadvantage in architecture. Just 3 per cent of women students have children.

However, female students are optimistic about the future, with 64 per cent believing opportunities for women within the profession are on the rise. But they still think there is plenty of room for improvement – 82 per cent say the industry is too heavily male-dominated.

More than half (51 per cent) of female students think economic downturns are likely to be harder on women architects. When it comes to recommending the profession, 58 per cent of male architects who responded to the survey say they would encourage a woman to start a career in architecture. But less than half of women respondents (49 per cent) agree.

WIA Survey

Does the current system of architectural training disadvantage women?

Women students respond:

‘Women don’t get enough experience out of university before they want to start to have a family.’

‘Women are less competitive and architecture school is an ego-machine between both students and tutors.’

‘There aren’t enough women teaching – it is very male dominated.’

‘The education system breeds a belief in ‘doing it for the love’ – that it is acceptable to work incredibly hard and not be paid properly for it. This works against women from the moment we graduate – low pay, poor job opportunities, a need to work very late to prove yourself. The competitiveness of this attitude is macho and suited to men far more than women.’

‘Many male students at university had first-hand construction experience from working on building sites that a female student would not have had the opportunity to gain.’

‘Women architects are never discussed or celebrated in school. It is almost perceived as a negative to be a woman in architecture. Graduating young women are headed into an industry that is still dominated by ‘the old boys club’.’

‘Women do well in school. It is when faced with the challenges of corporate employment that they suffer.’

‘The education is far too long, only a few years after graduating you are at an age where it is normal to have a family. In this short amount of time it is difficult to establish a career and permanent role within a company.’

‘The length of study puts many women off finishing it.’

About the survey

More people than ever completed this year’s AJ Women in Architecture online survey: 926 respondents took part – 710 women and 216 men.

Fifty-three per cent of all those who responded to the survey are architects, but it was also filled out by developers, PRs, consultants, structural engineers, quantity surveyors, academics and students, giving a broad insight into the way women are perceived across the industry.

The respondents are predominantly young – 80 per cent are under 40. Half of these are architects, including associates, directors, partners and sole practitioners. More than a third are students.

Of the architects who responded, almost a third are based in London; 24 per cent are in the rest of England, 8 per cent in Scotland, less than 1 per cent in Wales, 2 per cent in Northern Ireland, and 4 per cent are based in the rest of Europe.

Interestingly, the number of respondents completing the survey in the USA has increased sixfold, from just four per cent in 2013 to nearly a quarter – 24 per cent of responses – this year. The increase is likely linked to the impact of Denise Scott Brown’s interview with the AJ last year, which sparked international coverage of the petition to have Scott Brown retroactively included in her partner Robert Venturi’s 1991 Pritzker Prize win.

This survey, now in its third year, is a vital part of the AJ’s on-going campaign to raise the status and profile of women in architecture. The data, collected annually, allows the AJ to track progress in perception, equal pay and position over time. The survey also informs the Women in Architecture campaign’s focus for the coming year in response to concerns shared by women in the industry.

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