As part of the 50:50 exhibition previewed in this issue and on show at next week's Interbuild, leading lights of the construction industry were asked to offer their hopes and predictions as to changes which will affect the industry over the next 50 years. Many of those interviewed expressed a desire to see more diversity in a sector which is still disproportionately male and white.
Over the last few weeks, I have had endless conversations about the problems faced by women architects.This is my last week on the AJ before taking a break for maternity leave - David Taylor, the AJ's deputy editor, will be acting editor until I return.One advantage of working for a large corporation (both the AJ and our sister publication the Architectural Review are owned by publishing giant Emap) is that there is an established protocol for eventualities such as maternity leave and pay. This is a situation which has been greeted with envy by architect friends.
While architect employers tend to be supportive, it has often been left up to the individual to negotiate the terms of their leave - with varying degrees of success. It is understandable that they hesitate before offering the long-term security which working mothers need.A weekly magazine has a constant workload, and, given that the AJ has flourished for 107 years, it is safe to assume that the workload will still be there in a few months'time.
Few architectural practices enjoy the same degree of certainty. This is an inherent problem in a sector which is both unpredictable and cyclical. How do you guarantee a return to the same job at a given point in the future, when there is no clear means of predicting what the practice's own workload will be? And how can a small team undertake to generate sufficient income to pay a non-productive member of staff? Would it be possible to implement a centralised system, whereby practices would sign up to a recruitment policy prioritising women wishing to return to work after maternity leave, and a percentage of RIBA subscription money would be earmarked to top-up statutory maternity pay?