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Are women who leave architecture having the last laugh?

Long hours, low pay - what is the point? It does not look as though the schoolgirls who attended last week's career workshop (page 16) will be rushing to embark on a career in architecture, and who can blame them?

Men in the profession frequently complain about money, and it is common knowledge that women are generally paid less than their male counterparts.

There are several explanations for the low rate of female pay: women are less bullish about demanding pay rises; less confident about their own economic worth; less willing to engage in the type of politicking likely to lead to promotion; and less inclined to put in the after-hours effort bonding with the boss. Playing golf is frequently cited with regard to other professions: in architecture it generally boils down to time spent in the pub.

These are all valid points. But the schoolgirls' comments suggest that attitudes are changing, and that young women are simply not prepared to put up with low rates of pay. There are compelling reasons for women to pay particular attention to salary. Qualifying at 25, and taking time out to have children at, say, 35, leaves just a decade in between - without allowing any time for the odd gap year or false start. Children are costly, and while the obligations fall to both parents, most modern women want to know that they could - if necessary - be financially self-sufficient.

Those post-university years are a time to establish a degree of economic security as well as a professional reputation.

A high percentage of female architecture students 'disappear' after Part 2 and never take Part 3. Since these women move out of the orbit of the RIBA and the ARB, the profession has no means of monitoring their progress. Their 'disappearance' is often attributed to the fact that women drop off the career ladder. But could the opposite be true? It would be nice to believe that 'the disappeared' have been particularly canny about putting their training to good use: that they have simply jumped ship to a milieu where it takes less time to become established, and where the pay is rather better.

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