‘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.’