Unequal pay, the glass ceiling, bullying, sexism and long hours are leading to women quitting architecture. Good news: you can change this, says Christine Murray
If there is a silver lining to the bleak newsreels of the past two weeks – from the racism of the travel ban to the utterings of Trump on how women should dress – it’s that equality and diversity are firmly on the agenda, and a rise in grass roots activism, powered by social media, is provoking change.
Recent successes include huge global turnouts for women’s rights marches and protests against the US-imposed travel restrictions; the petition to prevent Trump’s state visit, which will be debated in parliament on 20 February following nearly two million signatures; the #deleteUber campaign, which saw Uber’s CEO step down from Trump’s advisory council; and major retailers dropping Ivanka Trump’s fashion line after a boycott.
The majority of architects have been quiet in recent years when it comes to politics, perhaps too fearful of being blacklisted or scaring away clients.
But the profession is growing louder, if the crowd at the RIBA Gold Medal dinner is anything to go by. Paulo Mendes da Rocha’s impassioned acceptance speech called on architects to build a new world, no less. He called for equality of the sexes, an end to racism, and a halt to the colonialist attitudes that have tainted politics for the past 300 years.
David Chipperfield also took to the stage to speak out against the ‘unelected’ prime minister and her violation of EU citizens’ rights, calling on May to stop using people as bargaining chips and guarantee their status. The conversation at my table rarely strayed from politics all night.
This stood in stark contrast to the Stirling Prize party in October, when the speeches avoided politics, the profession politely ignored the rising clamour of protesters on the pavement outside, and fears of Brexit were whispered, if mentioned at all.
This week, we reveal the growing crisis of sexism and unequal pay in practice, with half of all women surveyed having suffered discrimination, bullying or harassment in the past year, and a worsening pay gap, which sees male partners earning £55,000 a year more than female counterparts.
It’s no longer a secret why women leave architecture – it’s simply a worrying symptom of a diseased profession
As the cover of this week’s issue suggests, after six years of the campaign, we can now confidently say it’s no longer a secret, or a bemusing mystery, as to why women leave architecture – it’s simply a worrying symptom of a diseased profession. Low pay and high tuition fees, unequal pay and an impenetrable glass ceiling, a bullying and sexist culture, long hours and a lack of accommodation for parents.
Women’s march london garry knight
The good news: it’s within our power to change all this. Employees (male and female!) can rise up and demand an internal pay audit, and call out discrimination when it happens. And, in response, practice leaders can take action. Change can come: the survey reveals that practices with at least 20 per cent women in senior management saw half the frequency of discrimination, bullying and harassment as otherwise similar businesses with all-male management teams.
I hope the profession regains its political voice and stands united, not only demanding action on national and international issues, but setting its own house in order. The future of the profession depends on you not falling silent again.