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New findings: Women in Architecture Survey

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Continuing the AJ’s campaign to promote the status of women in architecture, further analysis of the AJ’s survey results reveals a shocking pay gap at director level, writes Christine Murray

New analysis of the AJ’s Women in Architecture survey has revealed proof that women are paid less than men for the same role, with female directors in particular falling victim to a shocking pay gap.

The latest results show that some practices are operating in full breach of the Equal Pay Act, and could be subject to claims for up to six years after a woman leaves her employment. 

Women in Architecture Survey results

Women in Architecture Survey results

Nearly 800 people responded to the survey, almost 100 of which were men. By comparing the salary and job function of male respondents against their female counterparts, a massive disparity in pay is apparent at director level.

Eighty-four per cent of male directors, partners, managers or sole practitioners working full-time earn over £51,000 per annum, while just 47 per cent
of women at the same level earn as much.

Women in Architecture Survey results

Women in Architecture Survey results

Median pay for directors in the AJ100 is £75,000, according to survey results for 2009 and 2010.

The results reveal that even when women are promoted to the title of ‘director’ or ‘partner’, there is a glass ceiling with regards to their pay. 

Overall salary results also reveal that while 40 per cent of women working full-time are paid £25,000 or less per year, just a quarter of full-time working men in architecture are paid as little.

Similarly, while 25 per cent of men working full-time are paid over £51,000 per year, just nine per cent of full-time working women are paid as much.

According to RIBA Appointments’ salary guide, which does not include figures for director pay, architects should earn between £34-45,000 per annum, while associates should earn £37-50,000. Median pay for associates in the AJ100 was £46,000 last year, while median pay for architects was £37,000.

Women setting up on their own

New results also reveal that after having children, a remarkable 24 per cent of women surveyed resigned from their practice after becoming a parent, choosing instead to set up on their own or become self-employed (17 per cent), or seek work with more flexible hours (seven per cent).

This suggests that it is not the practice of architecture itself that is incompatible with motherhood, but the culture of the offices in which these women worked.

By not allowing women to work flexibly, practices are not only losing talented staff, they are gaining competitors in the women who set up shop for themselves.

Women in Architecture Survey results

Women in Architecture Survey results

The majority of mothers surveyed (35 per cent) returned to the same job as before maternity leave but working fewer hours, while 25 per cent returned working the same hours. Eight per cent assumed a part-time position on a lower pay grade or seniority level and seven per cent left architecture altogether after having children, the same number as those who received a promotion within six months of returning to work. Just two per cent went back to the same job, working more hours.

Working mum Helena Rivera, founder of A Small Studio, empathises with the results saying, ‘I worked in a big successful practice for a couple of years and quickly realised that if I wanted to be an architect and a mum, I would have to choose an alternative route or delay having kids. I now have two boys, both under the age of four, and I run a small practice from a studio in my garden. I teach one day a week and am finishing a PhD in planning at the Bartlett. I probably have more duties now than if I was a full-time employee, but at least they are duties I can be flexible with and manage on my own terms.’

Patricia Eckenweber, who set up Bubble Architects in London, said ‘You only have to look at most companies, including my old practice, to see that women in upper senior management represent only about one-to-two per cent. I found that it was my clients who saw and valued the work and commitment I had to my projects over the years. From that realisation came the decision to take my future into my own hands to set up my practice.’

Interestingly, 18 per cent of men  surveyed also resigned from their practice after having a child; 12 per cent chose to set up on their own or become self-employed, while six per cent sought work with more flexible hours elsewhere.


Latent sexism 

New results also reveal a third of men who completed the survey believe the male-to-female ratio of architects is ‘about right’. Thirty per cent of male respondents working full-time said they felt the ratio was roughly correct given the nature of the industry, while nearly 20 per cent said that equal pay was not an issue in architecture.

A further 67 per cent of full-time working male respondents said they thought the current economic climate would affect men and women equally.

Women in Architecture Survey results

Women in Architecture Survey results

The results reveal a lack of understanding among male workers regarding the inequality issues facing women in the profession. One male respondent wrote that ‘the very ethos of the [AJ Women in Architecture] survey is an insult and a needless attempt at equality because men and women are not treated any differently’.

But other men completing the survey admitted the difficulty of parenting in architecture, and called for more flexible working hours and better pay for both sexes. ‘Men should have time to go and see the school play’ said one, while another said, ‘the demands of architecture don’t easily accommodate family life. Men want this now also.’

Another male respondent said that ‘men tend to be expected to put in long hours’, suggesting while some men would like to contribute more to childcare, peer pressure can be an issue.

Interestingly, while 80 per cent of male respondents surveyed said they had not experienced sexual discrimination in architecture, 35 per cent of men said they had been victims of bullying. In comparison, 70 per cent of women said they’ve experienced gender discrimination at some point in their career, while 33 per cent had been bullied.

The AJ Women in Architecture survey is part of the AJ’s campaign to raise the status of women in the profession, along with the Women in Architecture Awards

Women in Architecture Awards

Women in Architecture Awards - click to find out more


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