19 speakers and 9 candidates, but no women: architects demand gender equality statement from Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland (RIAS)
Architects have hit out at The Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland (RIAS) for failing to book a single female to speak at its high-profile annual convention and for the absence of women candidates in the upcoming council elections.
Kieran Gaffney of Edinburgh-based practice Konishi Gaffney has written to the organisation about its line-up which includes Gareth Hoskins, John McAslan and Eric Parry but no women.
On Twitter, Gaffney said: ‘Just written to RIAS about their all-male conference. Who’s going to back me up?’ He added: ‘RIAS council members voting forms arrived today. 9 out of 9 are men standing for Council’.
In the letter, Gaffney called on the RIAS to issue a gender equality statement and take steps to ensure women are represented at future events.
Read the full letter
Described as the ‘single most significant event in the Incorporation’s annual calendar’, the convention will take place in Aberdeen from 10 to 12 May and is titled ‘Reconnecting with the Past’.
Charles Renfro of Diller Scofidio + Renfro which won a contest to revamp Aberdeen’s Union Terrace Gardens (scheme pictured) is speaking at the event along with Kengo Kuma who is designing a £47 million outpost for the V&A in Dundee.
Barbara Weiss of Barbara Weiss Architects said: ‘I’m absolutely surprised that in this day and age people are still putting forward speakers that are 100 per cent one gender.
‘People need to be a lot more sensitive to these issues. There’s an acknowledgement at the moment that things are beginning to move forward but it’s obviously not yet hit the Scottish scene.’
Liane Hartley of Mend described the line-up as ‘sadly representative’. She said: ‘The strapline “Reconnecting with the past” says it all – we are clearly stuck in the past and failing to recognise women’s standing in this profession.’
She said women ‘need to be supporting and promoting each other’s good work,’ but should not be represented on a ‘tokenistic level’.
‘It’s our responsibility as women too to get ourselves out there, be pushy and confident about our own voice and our contribution and get ourselves on to councils, panels,’ she said.
Commenting on the lack of women standing for RIAS council, Clare Wright of Wright & Wright Architects said: ‘Scotland has a very longstanding reputation for encouraging and supporting women in the professions and in education. There are excellent articulate candidates, who would represent aspects uniquely related to the 50 per cent of students and trainees who are women.
‘It is surprising that they have neither put themselves forward nor stood for Council. One has to ask why?’
‘Greater effort needs to be made to encourage participation from a wider, diverse membership,’ he said.
Elena Tsolakis of Elena Tsolakis Architects said the line-up reinforced a ‘stereotype’ that architects had been working hard to dispel.
‘This is a missed opportunity for the RIAS to engage with women who want to be part of the industry and with those who are already a part of it,’ she said.
In response, RIAS secretary and treasurer Neil Baxter said the organisation had approached women to speak but none were available.
He said: ‘We end up, not by intent or design, with an excellent group of speakers all of whom happen to be male.’
He added: ‘There are many who would advocate positive discrimination for all fields of human endeavour. There are others who would see that as discrimination.’
Kathryn Findlay has confirmed that she was asked to speak at the RIAS convention, but was forced to decline due to a prior commitment to speak at the National | Architecture Conference in Brisbane, Australia from 10-12 May. ‘I was certainly asked, as I was last year, but couldn’t make it.’
The full RIAS response
As you will be aware, the Incorporation has never pursued a positive discrimination policy. As it happens, the senior architects and clients on many of the very specific topics of this year’s Convention (Commonwealth Games, Olympic Games, Union Terrace Gardens, V&A Dundee) are male. However, the topics are pertinent and relevant to the profession and/or Aberdeen. It is also the case that we did speak to a number of female architects about potential participation in this year’s Convention, not because they are women. Unfortunately, as it turned out, none of them were able to manage, so we end up, not by intent or design, with an excellent group of speakers all of whom happen to be male.
We have also been informed, by the press, that you have publicly questioned the candidates list for this year’s RIAS Council Election on the basis that all candidates are male. As you should be aware, Council candidates are self-nominated. The invitation went without fear or favour to all of the Incorporation’s membership. No female architects have stood for election, therefore there are no females on the list. However, you have my absolute assurance that we would encourage all our members, irrespective of gender, to stand.
I know there are many who would advocate positive discrimination for all fields of human endeavour. There are others who would see that as discrimination.
Secretary & Treasurer
The Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland