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Maternity pay not main disincentive for woman

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I very much doubt that the proposal of the Women In Architecture group regarding maternity leave would have a positive effect on employment opportunities for women (AJ 15.3.01). No employer in their right mind would want to pay 40 per cent of a year's pay for nothing, so practices would have a major disincentive to take on women of childbearing age. Typically architectural salaries and fee incomes are so derisory compared with professions with similar qualification requirements that it is hard to see that many practices could afford such an arrangement. Young people are unlikely to take maternity arrangements into consideration when making career decisions - this will, after all, affect only a relatively short period of one's working life, and, with the need to complete the training and establish a career, will be far in the future from the perspective of a teenager.

Far more important address are the low rates of pay - architects will be falling behind new teachers before very long. Having made the decision to train as an architect, issues of supportiveness and self esteem - within what can be a very bullish and macho culture in the studio - would, I suspect, be one of the key reasons why people (of either gender) with greater sensitivity and less over-confidence drop out so readily.

The sheer length of time it takes to qualify may well also be a significant disincentive, especially when the levels of renumeration mean that young people probably won't make up for the time lost to studying, compared with their contemporaries. I regard my qualifications and skills as one of my proudest achievements. Nevertheless, if any of my three children were to consider architecture as a career I would do my best to dissuade them.

Verity Bird, Construction, Design and Maintenance Service, City of Bradford Metropolitan District Council

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