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Blackstone backs drive for more women architects

Arts minister Baroness Blackstone has pressed for more women to become involved in the architectural profession at the launch of a competition geared solely towards female and ethnic design teams.

Baroness Blackstone was speaking at a 'networking lunch' for the Women In Architecture group at the RIBA last week during which she said she was concerned at the still low levels of female representation in the profession. 'Contrast that with medicine, the law, accountancy, ' she said. 'For some reason architecture has fallen behind and we don't seem to be catching up as fast as those other professions.We do need to think about why that is.'

Numbers are actually rising, with the proportion of women in the profession climbing - there were 2,639 women architects in 1991 and 3,986 in 2001, during which time the number of men in the profession fell. 'But it's still not good enough, ' said Blackstone. 'We mustn't simply regret the situation - we must get off our backsides and do something about it.'

Women in Architecture chair Angela Brady said that while there are about 4,000 women architects in Britain - 13 per cent - that figure needed to be doubled. 'A quick sum tells us that with 36 schools graduating 35 per cent women per year, it will take about five years to double our numbers.'

Brady said it was essential that research into why women drop out of architecture and do not return is carried out. She also branded the RIBA's financial support for the Architects for Change group as a 'shockingly low figure.' The institute gives £1,000 for core costs and £1,000 for project costs, but Brady said 10 times more was needed.

'We need that financial support and recognition from the RIBA to reach our potential and make the necessary changes to our profession.'

The CABE-backed competition, to design a £600,000 'community hub' for Finsbury Park in north London, is open to teams of under eight, made up of women and black and minority ethnic architects. But the Finsbury Park Community Forum has not given a full commitment that the winning resource centre scheme will be built. Full details at ajplus. co. uk

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