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Former minister: Women in Architecture survey a 'wake-up call'

Jo Swinson
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Jo Swinson, former Lib Dem business minister and chair of Maternity Action calls for better management practices and more flexible working

The results of the latest Women in Architecture survey are a ‘wake-up call’ for the architecture profession, the chair of Maternity Action has said.

Jo Swinson, who was formerly a Lib Dem business minister in the Coalition government and introduced shared parental leave and kick-started legislation on gender pay transparency, said the survey’s results were worrying and ‘must be tackled’.

The annual survey, published last month, showed that more than 90 per cent of female architects in the UK believe having children hinders their careers – a five per cent increase on the 2015 results. The survey also found that female directors, partners and principals of UK firms were earning £20,000 less than their male counterparts.

Swinson said: ‘The recent Women in Architecture survey results should be a wake-up call for the profession. The increasing gender pay gap and strong perceptions that having a family hinders a career in architecture must be tackled.

‘Good basic management practices are important, and can easily be overlooked in small practices with no dedicated HR function. Employers need to make sure women are supported in pregnancy with a safe working environment, and during maternity leave with communication to promote a smooth return to work.

‘Technology now enables people to work in a much more agile way, so the profession needs to shake-off the outdated presenteeism culture and embrace the benefits of flexible working. Men can also help to change the culture by being upfront about how they balance work with their family responsibilities as fathers and sons.’

Maternity Action is a charity campaigning against inequality and for better health and employment rights for pregnant women and new parents.

In her response to the survey last month RIBA president Jane Duncan said she was concerned by the results, adding: ‘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.’

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