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RIBA drops International Women’s Day cookery class after backlash

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‘Retrograde’ plans for a cookery class for parents, organised by the RIBA for International Women’s Day later this week, have been dropped after a protest by architects

The decision came after more than 50 architects and academics, including Sarah Wigglesworth, Barbara Weiss and Harriet Harriss, signed an open letter urging the institute to rethink the proposed event at a Mayfair kitchen showroom, labelling it an ’astonishing misstep’.

According to RIBA London’s publicity for the Brunch at Bulthaup – Parents edition, guests would have been given the chance to network around a demonstration kitchen before being given a ‘useful presentation’ by home economist Sarah Gardiner on how to prepare ’quick and healthy meals for a busy working family’.

The publicity material explained that ‘[for] International Women’s Day 2019, RIBA London are delighted to be celebrating women in architecture by hosting a special brunch event at Bulthaup in Mayfair’.     

In response, the architects’ letter read: ’We would like to express our heartfelt disappointment in the RIBA endorsement of kitchens, family well-being and healthy eating as a general female prerogative, and one that is of particular relevance to women’s professional advancement in architecture.

’These twin notions are pervasive in work places and wider society and continue to undermine women’s authority at work, their job security and their mental and physical health.’     

It continued: ’The barriers to practising architecture alongside other major life commitments are not only relevant to a minority subset of RIBA members (female architects with children) or just women, or just parents. They can affect any architect, employee, colleague or partner.

’If the RIBA were serious about these issues it would seek broader engagement from its membership to shape the discussion on any other day than 8 March’.

The letter, which was initiated by Maria Westerståhl of Cottrell & Vermeulen, concluded: ’It is our view this retrograde event is damaging to the RIBA’s standing among its members, to women in architecture and to architects of both sexes raising a family.’     

An RIBA spokesperson said: ‘This event has been cancelled in light of the valid concerns that have been raised. We will be looking into what lessons can be learnt.

‘The RIBA is strongly committed to driving change to diversify our profession, and we have a range of measures in place to support talented people to progress and flourish. But there is more work to do, and, as ever, we welcome any comments or suggestions on how we can further support our members.’


Readers' comments (4)

  • Dear RIBA,
    My practice is 50-50 male female, with pay on merit. What we do need is for the RIBA to promote the value of architects to potential clients in the loudest way possible in the mainstream media channels. This way we may command better fees to be able to pay better salaries to all. Get to the root causes and not just pay. And stop just looking at equality in the workplace through the singular analysis of pay. Its far more complicated and needs a thorough multivalent analysis.

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  • Well said Atticus!

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  • Chris Roche

    The RIBA continues to make fundamental errors in their steps to support women in Architecture. Whilst a member of RIBA Council I introduced a motion that RIBA provide free membership for women members on maternity leave in an attempt to offer practical support. RIBA's response was to offer women a reduced fee "Hardship Rate" whilst on maternity leave. Needless to say this was rejected, and I succeeded in introducing a "Reduced Rate" for all members on maternity leave irrespective of gender. I still think there is value in RIBA offering free subscriptions for all non-practicing architects whilst on maternity leave but despite 3 recent women Presidents the issue has not been revisited.

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  • A far more 2019 way to celebrate International women’s day - Women in Architecure launch drinks! https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/women-in-architecture-website-launch-drinks-tickets-57280168526

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