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Childcare - Women in architecture survey 2013

Raising a family and working in architecture remains challenging for women in the profession

A massive 89 per cent of women who took part in our survey (and 86 per cent of those with children) think having kids puts women at a disadvantage in architecture - up nine percentage points on last year. They cite the inability to work long hours - which has a knock-on effect in terms of networking - and a perception that they are not as dedicated to their careers.

In stark contrast, only 12 per cent of women (and 13 per cent of those with offspring) think having children puts men at a disadvantage in the profession - up four points on last year.

It is interesting to compare how male respondents answer these questions. A substantial 74 per cent of men (88 per cent of men with kids) think having children puts women at a disadvantage in architecture. Thirty-four per cent of men (40 per cent of men with offspring) think having children puts men at a disadvantage. It seems that being parents makes men more aware of the challenges facing working mothers in the sector.

At director level, where company culture is shaped, the picture is more pronounced. Only 67 per cent of male directors without children think having children puts women at a disadvantage. This compares with an astonishing 100 per cent of male directors with children.

The survey reveals that 61 per cent of female directors have children. Of those, 82 per cent think having kids puts women at a disadvantage (compared with 90 per cent of women directors who do not have children).

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In all, 28 per cent of women who took part in the survey have children. Of these, 40 per cent report they had difficulties in resuming their career after having them. The majority (46 per cent, up from 35 per cent in last year’s survey) went back to the same job as before, working fewer hours.

A significant and worrying proportion (19 per cent, down from 24 per cent last year) resigned from their position to either look for work with flexible hours (6 per cent) or set up their own practice (13 per cent). This suggests it is not the practice of architecture itself that is incompatible with motherhood, but the culture of the offices in which these women worked.

It is worth noting 46 per cent of UK-based female respondents with children work part-time. The majority of these (75 per cent) are aged 31 to 45; just under half (48 per cent) earn £26,000 or less.

‘Do you think having children puts women at a disadvantage in architecture?’

Women with children respond:

‘Many professions look after women and have options open to them - maternity/paternity leave, part time, flexitime. If women mattered to the profession, these would be in place’

‘The industry changes when you take time out to have children. You go back and have to earn your stripes again’

‘Part-time working puts women in lower positions, where it’s harder to progress’

‘Suddenly as a mother you have lots of barriers and limitations’

‘The need to get away on time or work part time is difficult in anything where you work as part of a team. Job shares don’t seem to exist in architecture, unlike in other professions such as teaching. So you just try and do your full-time job in fewer hours’

‘I work in residential housing. Being a mother gives me insight and understanding of a family’s needs. Options opened to me that I might never have explored’

‘It’s easier to deal with bickering contractors and consultants once you’ve practised on children’

‘I went back to work full time when my children were only a couple of months old in order to avoid being sidelined’

‘My practice has been strengthened since having children. My patience, perspective and ability to see long term outcomes have improved’

Readers' comments (1)

  • I happened to have my children quite close together and took a sabbatical in order to care for them properly. I've recently been looking to return to architecture and the same elephant comes up - it would seem that employers are often unable to see the transferable skills or potential that have been gained during a time out of the profession. Any experience that doesn't involve CAD isn't "relevant."
    Add to that the incredible notion that at least one parent may want to pick the children up from school or see them awake during the week...
    It's clear that the profession is haemorrhaging a considerable amount of talent and dedication through this issue.

    Unsuitable or offensive?

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