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Foster: ‘Overlooking skill women bring to architecture is short-sighted’

Norman Foster has said that the talent of women architects can be ‘hidden and overlooked’

His words come as he is announced as one of the judges of this year’s AJ Women in Architecture Awards.

Foster said: ‘Overlooking the talent and skill that women bring to architecture and the design of our built environment is simply short-sighted.

‘The AJ Women in Architecture Awards are an opportunity to celebrate that wealth of often hidden and sometimes wasted talent and ensure that our younger generation of women architects and designers have more role models to encourage them in their future career.’

Britain’s most admired architect, who founded Foster + Partners in 1967, employs more than 1,100 staff, including 300 architects, of which 24 per cent are women.

The winner of the Woman Architect of the Year at the 2014 Women in Architecture Awards was Francine Houben, the influential designer of the RIBA Striling Prize-shortlisted Library of Birmingham (see AJ 07.02.14).

The 2015 award winners will be announced at the AJ Women in Architecture Luncheon at Claridge’s on 27 February.

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Readers' comments (2)

  • I wish Opinion Leaders like Norman Foster would lead by example.

    Looking at http://www.fosterandpartners.com/about-us/ ,
    there are 10 Senior Executive Partners at Foster and Partners.

    All men.

    There are also 8 Senior Partners, all men.

    Looking among the long list of about 120 Partners, I counted just 12 women.

    I am pleased for the AJ to get such a high-profile judge for the Women in Architecture Awards but the most effective way for Norman Foster not to 'hide and overlook' women in architecture would be to promote one or two women to the Senior Management of his practice.

    The RIBA Business Benchmarking Report states that
    'Women account for a third of all personnel but only just over a quarter of fee earners. Regardless of practice size, the
    percentage of women falls steadily by seniority, averaging 41% of Architectural Assistants but only 13% of Partners or Directors.'

    I would love to see the architectural profession follow the FTSE 100 Thirty Percent Club initiative and aim for 30% of Senior Managers to be women. http://30percentclub.org/ Then young architects might have credible role models.

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  • J Burden

    Can we hear more from practice owners - their own stories - as to how they personally have dealt with difficult issues such as lack of experience in junior staff or helping their staff balance being a productive staff member with an engaged family life?

    As for the leading by example issue, well, I from personal experience I can write that one of the leading advocates of mentoring and promotion of women in the industry is the very same person I worked for as a Part 2 where I got F All help with my Part 3 studies and experienced a hatchet job on my confidence.

    Very much a case of do as I say not as I do!

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