Just one per cent of those working in large firms said that their office’s management team was split equally between men and women
Women are more likely to work in smaller practices than men. A significant portion of female architects work for themselves – 11 per cent are self-employed, compared with 7 per cent of men – while almost a quarter (24 per cent) work in practices that employ fewer than 10 people, compared with 20 per cent of male architects.
However, the majority of female architects (51 per cent) work in practices that qualify for the AJ100 listings – companies with more than 26 staff.
Female architects who have set up on their own have sacrificed pay for flexibility. More than half (52 per cent) of full-time female sole practitioners earn less than £27,000 – though 95 per cent say it allows them to work outside normal nine-to-five office hours. Almost two thirds (63 per cent) said they work evenings and weekends on a regular basis.
Describing why she made the leap to go self-employed, one architect said: ‘I stepped out of the typical hierarchy. This has given me a higher level of responsibility and autonomy than I was experiencing as an employed architect five years ago when male architects of the same age were much higher up the office hierarchy.’
Of those working in large practices with more than 100 employees, 80 per cent work full time. Just half (56 per cent) said they are able to work flexible hours.
‘Female bosses are needed to change the office culture’
Those in medium-sized practices of 26-50 employees are happiest about work/life balance. More than two thirds (68 per cent) of female architects working in medium-sized firms thought it was possible for women to have a healthy work/life balance in architecture compared to 48 per cent of those working in large practices.
Women working in large practices think more about their careers – most likely a result of more visible opportunities for career progression. Almost all (96 per cent) female architects in large firms think about their career paths compared with 88 per cent of sole practitioners. More than 60 per cent of female architects in large firms said they could talk to someone about their future, while 80 per cent of sole practitioners said they had no one to talk to about their career path.
But moving up to a senior role is still a sticking point for many women in practice.
‘I can’t see opportunities ahead of me due to the rigid structure,’ commented one woman architect working in a firm with more than 100 employees.
‘I work in a company of more than 100 employees with more than 10 partners,’ said another. ‘Only one of them is female. This is maddening.’
Another woman architect added: ‘Our practice is very political. Many young members are suffering from being pushed down their career progression, stuck with particular tasks, and constantly meet glass ceilings of one sort or another.’
Indeed all evidence in the survey continues to point to a glass ceiling for women in the profession. Just 1 per cent of those working in large firms said that their office’s management team was split equally between men and women. And a fifth of all female architects surveyed said none of the senior staff in their practices were female.
Many said that without having women in senior roles and positions of leadership, it would be difficult for the industry to change, and some even called for ‘quotas for women in management’ in order to redress the balance.
‘We need more women in senior roles within architecture practices who support women in more junior positions,’ commented one woman architect. ‘We have now got to a point where there are significantly more women in practice, but many women remain in junior roles with management in most cases being exclusively male.’
About the survey
The AJ’s Women in Architecture Survey has become a major annual event and this year, more people than ever have taken part – 1,104.
It hasn’t just been women responding: 20 per cent of responses came from men, allowing us to compare what male and female practitioners think.
As well as architects – who made up 56 per cent of respondents – clients, consultants, academics, engineers, PRs and developers also filled out the survey.
Now in its fourth year, the survey forms a vital part of The AJ’s on-going programme aimed at raising the status of women in the profession and celebrating their work.
The annual data, collected anonymously and focused this year on the UK profession alone, allows us to track progress in perception, pay equality, and gender balance over time. Previous results have been published widely in the national media, used by the RIBA, and referred to by government.
The evidence published reveals the definitive picture of the life of a working, female architect today.