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Gender pay gap: ‘beyond shocking’

Architects have called on the RIBA to ‘name and shame’ practices who pay women less than their male counterparts

The demands come after Office for National Statistics figures emerged showing that female architects earn on average 25 per cent less than men in similar roles – the second-worst sector within the industry after construction and building trades supervisors.

The revelations provoked outrage in the profession, with key figures urging the institute to do more to protect its members against discrimination.

Julia Barfield, managing director, Marks Barfield Architectssaid: ‘It makes my blood boil when I hear that there are architects paying women less than men for the same work. It is beyond shocking. [The RIBA] should do more than simply condemn it.’

Barfield called on the RIBA to initiate an online declaration for practices to state that they pay staff equally, adding: ‘Those that don’t will effectively reveal and shame themselves.’

Joe Morris of Duggan Morris, agreed that firms which pay staff unequally should be ‘outed’: ‘If the statistics suggest blatant discrimination, name and shame each practice individually, including the directors who set out such a policy,’ he said.

Robert Guy, partner at Arturus Architects, said: ‘Unless there is campaign to “out” the practices which are paying less, nothing will happen.’

And Stephen Riley of Kiran Curtis Associates said the institution was at risk of ‘looking foolish’. He added: ‘If the RIBA has evidence of any form of systematic discrimination within a chartered practice they should take action. This issue has been raised constantly over the past 30 years and it is now looking rather foolish and damaging the image of the profession.’

RIBA president Stephen Hodder condemned the discrepancy between the sexes as ‘deplorable’ and said he wanted it to ‘become a requirement’ that  ‘all RIBA chartered practices have a written policy on equality, diversity and inclusion’.

In response Harriet Harriss, a lecturer in architecture at Oxford Brookes University, said: ‘The RIBA is absolutely correct in wanting to make equal pay a chartered practice membership requirement, but it needs to commit to it now, not in the future.’

Statement from RIBA president Stephen Hodder

‘The CITB analysis of the gender pay gap that exists in the latest ONS earnings data is a stark and shocking example of discrimination blighting our profession. 

‘Let’s get one thing clear; if you are not paying your female staff the same salary for carrying out the same job as their male colleagues then you are breaking the law, irrespective of the size, sector or turnover of your practice.

‘Our own Annual Architects Employment and Earnings Survey 2013/14 undertaken with the Fees Bureau found that on average female architects earn 14 per cent less than male architects. Private practice salaried female architects earn on average 9 per cent less than their male colleagues while principles in practices (partners/directors) females earn on average 24 per cent less than males.

‘Women account for 26 per cent of the fee earners across the architects’ profession: 41 per cent of Part 1 qualified architectural assistants, 21 per cent of associates, 13 per cent of equity partners/directors, 18 per cent of equity partners/directors in micro practices (< 5 staff) and 8 per cent of equity partner/directors in large practices (50+ staff).

‘This under representation of women at the more senior levels of the profession offers a partial explanation for the gender differential in average salary levels. It is also notable than proportionally more female equity partners/directors are in smaller practices, where remuneration levels are typically lower.

‘Just 57 per cent of micro-practices have a written policy on equality, diversity and inclusion in place, rising to 90 per cent of large practices. I would like to see it become a requirement for all RIBA Chartered Practices to have such a policy in the future.

‘RIBA Appointments have a detailed salary guide. If you are concerned about your salary this is a good place to start, see how you compare with what others in your local area are being paid.’ 

Further comments

John Assael, director, Assael

‘It is against the law, the ARB and RIBA Codes of Conduct, the RIBA Employment Policy and the rules governing Chartered Practices to discriminate against a number of groups including women.  

Let’s get a campaign going to ‘out’ these disgraceful firms of architects

‘Let’s get a campaign going to ‘out’ these disgraceful firms of architects. In our practice the highest paid are the best and at associate, director and architect levels both are women.’

Clare Wright, co-founder, Wright & Wright Architects

‘The RIBA should be very clear that illegal practice is unacceptable in its members and ensure it sets a model example in all its practices.

‘Apart from the obvious benefit of having more money, the important point is that salary reflects the value attributed to an individual. Those paid more comparatively; gain a higher sense of self-worth and confidence. The assessment becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, which is why recognising the imbalance is so important in helping women reach their potential.’ 

Michal Cohen, co-founder of Walters & Cohen Architects and winner of the 2012 AJ Woman Architect of the Year Award

‘We don’t have a pay gap in our practice. I don’t know how anybody can justify that. I don’t know how the RIBA would check up on practices though. We need more transparency.’

Hodder should be pushing for higher wages for all architects, female and male

David Grubbe, sole-practitioner

‘Stephen Hodder should be pushing for higher wages for all architects, female and male. The RIBA need to take action for all architects!’

Oliver Richards, director, ORMS

‘I consider that it is entirely indefensible to have different pay rates for women who do the same job as men. It is also indefensible not to pay all students. The RIBA requires RIBA chartered practices to confirm in their annual returns that they pay students at least at the minimum wage, and the RIBA has set out an aspiration that these levels of pay would increase above the minimum as the economy improves. The RIBA has also stated its aspiration that all other architectural practices will follow this lead.

‘It would be extremely complex for the RIBA to police rates of pay for women architects. But I would like to see a confirmed commitment on the annual returns from Chartered Practices that they actively seek to pay women architects at the same level or better than their male equivalents.’

Jeremy Till, head, Central St Martins

‘It is probably wrong to blame the RIBA for what appears blatant discrimination in the profession . But we should support them in waging a campaign that is not just legal but cultural - namely to stop pretending to being ‘liberal’ and face up to embedded sexism in the architectural profession.’ 

We want to hear from you

If you believe you are being paid less than your male colleagues who do the same job as you, let the AJ know in confidence.

Readers' comments (5)

  • Women and men should be paid the same money for the same work, but do we know why women are paid less? The AJ survey earlier this year hinted at reasons such as time women were available for work after childbirth. Is this really a question of equal pay or a question of working practices and attitudes flexible enough to accommodate things like raising a family? (Amongst other things)

    If we genuinely are an inherently sexist profession then we need to sort it out, but before we label ourselves as such I would like to see a bit more investigation into the reasons why this problem exists so that the best solutions can be adopted.

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  • A number of factors should be considered when assessing salary levels - skills, job getting capacity, leadership abilities etc - but Gender is something that should not even be on the radar for any professional organisation. However, I suppose the guilty parties won't even be entering into this discussion, so what's to be done?
    Sarah Curl
    Partner, Curl la Tourelle Architects.

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  • John Kellett

    Ian Goulty has hit the nail on the head. Do we know why there is a pay difference? Is it just a trick of statistics?

    If women take time out to look after children and retire earlier then the 'average' salary for women will inevitably be less. If on the other hand the statistics have been adjusted for such matters then the gender pay gap is a very worrying issue.

    It is important not to forget that ALL architects are not, generally, sufficiently recompensed for the skills possessed.

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  • Stephen Hodder needs to read the the Manchester Architects Salary Survey, Spring 2014, with salaries from 186 architects and comments from most. It makes extremely sorry reading and reflects the true state of the architects profession.

    Both the RIBA and ARB need to tackle 'Protection of Function of Architect' and provide 'Minimum Fee Scales for All Architects', if the architects profession is to survive.

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  • I sincerely believe there should be equal pay for male and female architects for equal responsibility. But let's take this debate away from the current emotional platform and admit that there is a natural gender slant to the history and evolution of professional practice. Nature has not lumped male and female together and there is a wisdom in it and female members are not thereto disadvantaged. The current situation evolved naturally, not by design. There is no need for apology and nobody needs to plead guilty.

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