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Making the break from architecture can be a postive step


Women are (still) leaving the profession before taking Part 3; the profession is (still) racking its brains to work out why. But is it necessarily a problem?

Architects, we know, are under-appreciated, underpaid and over-worked. So why are we so keen to wish it on a gender which has fought so hard to free itself from the tyranny of financial dependence and lowstatus work?

Turning the statistics around, you could make the positive point that a disproportionately high number of women are managing to use their architectural education as a passport to pastures new. While it would be indefensible to belittle the plight of those who feel ousted by sexism, we shouldn't underestimate the achievements of those who have carved out less orthodox - and possibly less thankless - careers.

It is patently absurd to assume that people with 'only' a degree or two in the subject have necessarily failed or been failed by the system. Plenty of architecture students, both male and female, realise that they may be more suited to an alternative career, but most shy away from the prospect of being seen to be giving up.

The result is a profession undermined by practitioners who are bored, disillusioned or simply not very good;

people who could have been valuable assets (and, potentially, educated clients) had they used their knowledge and expertise elsewhere.

It is undoubtedly shocking that women constitute such a small percentage of qualified architects. But does that necessarily mean we should encourage more of them to stay? Many of the women who 'disappear' have not fled in desperation, but gone on to forge satisfying careers. Role models who reinforce the message that architecture offers a rich, wide-ranging education, as supposed to a narrow vocational training;

that a degree in the subject is an achievement in its own right, and not simply a stepping stone to a prescribed career.

If we really want to redress the balance between the genders, maybe we ought to be encouraging more of their male counterparts to make the break as well.

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