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Disbelief as gender pay gap widens at top level of practices


Female directors, partners and principals of UK firms are taking home a shocking £20,000 less than their male counterparts

While wages across the profession have improved, results from the latest Women in Architecture survey show that the gap at the top is widening. The difference between salaries before bonuses for male and female directors and partners has increased from £13,000 in 2015 to £20,000 this year.

Yvonne Farrell, last year’s Jane Drew Prize winner, said: ‘The figures are shocking. It needs to be asked: who makes these decisions? It is unbelievable that such inequality exists.’

The survey of more than 1,400 men and women shows that female architects running practices are taking home an average salary of £62,500, while in comparison male architects are earning £82,000 a year. Some male partners reported taking home £150,000 and one said he earned a salary of £250,000. The highest salary reported by a female respondent was £100,000.

Statistician Bruce Tether said: ‘While there may be some underlying reasons for the differences, such as practice size and profitability, it suggests a significant gender pay gap at the top of the profession.’

Architect Sally Lewis, commented: ‘The disparities in pay between women and men continue to baffle me. Paying someone less because of their gender is archaic and I hope that these survey results are a reflection only of the old vanguard still in place, but soon to be replaced.’

And dRMM co-founder Sadie Morgan said: ‘The figures show that as an industry we need to work harder to ensure that women are properly rewarded for their contribution. The disparity at senior levels is disappointing.

‘Encouraging woman into the top jobs is a combination of opportunity and parity with male counterparts. You cannot offer one without the other.’

The government recently announced that from April 2018 the UK’s largest firms will have to publish gender pay imbalances and league tables will rank sectors against each other. But this will only affect companies with more than 250 employees – just 14 of firms in the AJ100.

The RIBA said it would take action against practices which did not pay equally and it plans to introduce reporting of gender breakdown of average pay and bonuses and explore the implications for chartered practices – and not just those which employ more than 250 staff.

RIBA president Jane Duncan said: Gender inequality has no place in our profession and we will not allow it to hide. I remain committed to championing diversity, fair pay and flexible working conditions.’

UK qualified architects annual salaries, 2016

UK qualified architects annual salaries, 2016

UK qualified architects annual salaries, 2016

Further comments

RIBA President Jane Duncan, RIBA president

’The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) is committed to making architecture and the broader construction industry more equal, diverse and inclusive.

’I’m concerned that the AJ Women in Architecture survey appears to show the wage gap is widening amongst women and men at the Director level in our profession. Gender inequality has no place in our profession and we will not allow it to hide. We will not stall on the issue of equal pay, and for my part, the RIBA is working towards introducing reporting of gender breakdown of average pay and bonuses, and exploring the implications for our Chartered Practices.

‘I remain absolutely committed to championing and sharing best practice on the business case for diversity, fair pay and flexible working conditions. I will continue to facilitate debate, and increase awareness and understanding of the equality, diversity and inclusion agenda with my campaigns like #SeeMeJoinMe and the RIBA Role Model Project.’

Virginia Newman, RIBA equality, diversity and inclusion ambassador

’The RIBA has taken steps to drive change within the profession, having recently announced the requirement for all RIBA Chartered Practices to have in place an Equality Diversion and Inclusion (EDI) policy and to pay students the national living wage.

’We launched our RIBA Role Model Project to show that architecture is now on the path to becoming an inclusive profession, one that offers rich possibilities for a wide range of talented individuals. 12 role models, half of whom are women, demonstrate how they have forged careers within architecture. In doing so they send a message to others who may share one or more aspects of their identity – such as gender, or background, ethnicity, disability, sexual orientation or education – that this could be a profession where they might thrive.

‘The RIBA is steadfast in its support and promotion of a fair and inclusive profession, but we recognise we must all do more. The RIBA provides guidance and support to members from all backgrounds on Architecture.com and will continue to do so to help to tackle the challenges and barriers that too often still exist.’

Alan Vallance, RIBA interim chief executive

’The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) is determined to secure real equality for women and further reduce the pay gap across all levels in our profession; and has called on the government to extend the rules to organisations with less than 250 employees. As a smaller organisation ourselves, we have already starting work to provide a breakdown for our staff, which we will publish ahead of the government’s deadline. I passionately believe that a diverse RIBA, representative of society as a whole, is pivotal to meeting the challenges of the future.’

Teresa Borsuk, partner, Pollard Thomas Edwards

’Surely these figures cannot be accurate or true. Such an extreme of pay differential is just not possible in the 21st century. It cannot be as cut and dry – or simple, as men being paid so much more than women. 

’We have chewed over possible reasons. Is it is because more women are likely to work in smaller practices than men? More women are likely to work part-time than men? A significant proportion of women might be self-employed, sacrificing pay for flexibility? 

’Hopefully it is that. 

‘Or is it that these statistics do actually reflect the cold reality of what is happening in some practices?’

Jill Showell, associate, strategic appointments, Bespoke

’The female candidates that I have placed seem to be on target. Although I do feel that women are easier to accept the first offer and not negotiate. There self-worth does not seem as strong as their male contemporaries.

’I have met female architects who don’t have families and have worked for some top practices still being on incredibly low salaries for their experience etc., again I think this comes down to their lack of empowerment.’


Readers' comments (2)

  • Yasmin Shariff

    The longer this misogyny continues the less credible our profession becomes. There is worrying evidence that recent female graduates (who get paid more or less equally) think that they will be ok as they have the talent, skills and ability. By the time they experience discrimination it is too late and a large proportion will no doubt, like women before them, leave the profession. There has been significant progress in other professions and change is long overdue in ours.

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  • The long-hours (often unpaid) and aggressively competitive culture is bad for men and women, but it is the women who bear the brunt. The demise of the public sector office, which first introduced paid maternity leave and equal pay for equal work, thereby setting a standard before legislation compelled the private sector to follow, has disproportionately inflicted damage on the careers of women. Some brave woman should bring a court case, as has happened with other professions.

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