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On 20 April, Women in Architecture will storm Portland Place

The winners of the AJ Women in Architecture Awards will be announced at a glittering lunch

When we published the Women in Practice issue of the AJ – our first edition of 2012 – our intention was to provide and publicise female role models for aspiring architects and young women in practice.

We also wanted to act as a forum for women to share business and life acumen, advising and supporting each other, sharing tips about childcare and flexible working, as well as how to pursue a successful career in architecture.

We hoped the results of our survey and coverage in the issue would educate practices about measures they can take to improve productivity and staff retention, by adopting the kind of healthier working practices that benefit all employees, male and female.

The purpose of the AJ Women in Architecture luncheon is no different. Taking place on 20 April, just a stone’s throw from RIBA headquarters at the five-star Langham Hotel in Portland Place, this event will bring together women from across the profession to network and celebrate the contribution and success of women in architecture, while the awards will promote role models for younger women in practice.

The judging panel for the AJ Women in Architecture Awards is announced this week – along with the shortlists – and it is likely the most esteemed panel I will ever chair.

The jury includes Richard Rogers; Martha Thorne, executive director of the Pritzker Prize; Laura Lee, chief executive of Maggie’s Centres; Moira Gemmill, design director at the V&A; Peter Rees, planning officer of the City of London; Colette O’Shea, head of development for London portfolio at Land Securities; Victoria Thornton, director of Open-City; and Doreen Lawrence, founder of the Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust.

Together they will select the winners of the Jane Drew Prize, Woman Architect of the Year and Emerging Woman Architect of the Year, to be announced at the luncheon.

In addition to judging, Rogers will also be speaking at the event. His practice has long been ahead of its time in treating women architects equally, and providing flexible and generous family-friendly support to its employees, including one year’s full-salary maternity pay, and four weeks’ full-pay paternity leave.

For the status of women to progress in practice, and equal pay and treatment to be achieved, more firms need to adopt Rogers’ approach. It was a pleasure to hear this week that Davy Smith Architects has just opened ‘Bright Buttons’, a private day nursery on the ground floor of its office premises, which staff and other businesses nearby can use.

Since the AJ launched the Women in Architecture campaign earlier in the year, there has been debate about whether an event and awards programme that specifically rewards the contribution of women to this profession is a kind of marginalisation. I would argue that this is a coming-out party. I hope this event will prove that women no longer need to fight to be an architect first and a woman second, but can finally be both, and proudly. See you there.

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