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Discrimination starts in the studio

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The Women in Architecture survey shows discrimination is more rife in the office than on site, says Rory Olcayto

Welcome to our biggest ever Women in Architecture issue, celebrating great architecture and the women behind it.

This year, our special  WIA edition is split three ways: the annual survey; an illustrated – and true – story called ‘Jane’; and the shortlists for both the Architect of the Year and Emerging Architect of the Year awards. But I want to talk about the survey. Why? Because of the incredible response: 1,104 of you responded to our questionnaire. And 430, nearly 40 per cent, are qualified female architects.

Comparing our first survey in 2012, when 291 out 776 respondents were architects, we can say that AJ’s equality-seeking initiative is increasingly relevant and harder to ignore: more and more of you want to be heard.

Most of the survey, however, makes for a depressing read. For me, two statistics stand out.  The first is that most women said they were more likely to encounter discrimination in the office than on site, and the second is that salaries for female graduates are lower than for their male counterparts. That first stat undermines the view some male architects have of the leering scaffolder or the patronising project manager as the main offender.

Clearly the workplace is still fraught with tension over the role of women in architecture. And that second stat? Shocking. Aspiring female architects, it seems, are on the back foot from the off. If you are in a position to employ graduates, please help bring about the end of this nasty habit. It is, quite simply, outrageous.

In his Letter from London this week Paul Finch reasonably asks: ‘Do women leave architecture school for other jobs because it is a long slog to qualification, after which financial rewards can be modest? Can anyone throw any light on this?’ Yes, I believe our survey can. It’s because a woman’s first experience of architectural practice, a letter with a salary offer, is likely to be: Sexist. Discriminatory. Patronising. Unfair. Bigoted. Blinkered. Prejudiced…

‘Jane’ … and Laura

Our illustrated story ‘Jane’ is a foil to historians ignoring the lives of women architects.  Too many go unrecognised. In the same spirit, I would like to draw your attention to Laura Mark, who, since we began our Women in Architecture programme in 2012, has played a leading role in developing AJ’s outlook on equality.  Thank you Laura, for pulling most of this special issue together, and for your commitment to Women in Architecture year in, year out.

rory.olcayto@emap.com Twitter: @roryolcayto

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