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Sexual equality 'a generation off'

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Dismantling the 'deep-rooted problems' of sexism in architecture will take at least a generation to achieve, experts warned this week.

The chair of the Equal Opportunities Commission and the RIBA president have both cautioned that the road to an 'architecture profession free of chauvinism' will be fraught with difficulties.

And the authors of the RIBA research study 'Why do Women Leave Architecture?' - officially launched last week - said that 'absolutely nothing' will be achieved without the reform of cultural attitudes within schools.

New president George Ferguson told the study's launch that there are 'just so many problems' that he cannot see completely equal status for women 'for a long time'.

'I feel it is my duty to warn that we will not see any instant changes in this cultural problem, ' he said. 'It could be a generation before there are the desired results.'

And Ferguson also warned that the RIBA will be unable immediately to carry out all the study's recommendations - including reformed good practice guides and codes of practice - because of financial shortages at the institute. 'We will try to find the money, ' he said. 'But it will not be in place immediately.'

EOC chair Julie Mellor supported Ferguson's warnings. Sexism is so 'deep-rooted'within the profession, 'it could take even longer than a generation before we see any real equality in architecture, ' she told AJ. 'The profession needs to learn a huge number of lessons from accountancy and law to see how to improve the situation.'

'Practices have done very well to increase their proportions of women. But even these still have problems with a low number of women within senior management, 'Mellor added.

However, former RIBA councillor Yasmin Shariff said Ferguson needs to go further. 'He needs to start with the institute itself, ' she said. 'Sexism is endemic in the profession but it is also everywhere among RIBA staff. I have been appalled by the behaviour of many members of staff.

'We will be lucky if we see improvement in the profession at large within a generation. It will take much longer than that, ' she added.

But the researchers behind the RIBA study, Anne de GraftJohnson and Sandra Manley, insisted the institute should tackle the problems in architectural education first, such as the drought of female teachers and lecturers.

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