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Pay inequality starts on entry to profession

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Survey results show the problems begin on entry to the profession, with pay inequality for Part 1 and Part 2 year-out students

Increased optimism in the industry during the past year has been reflected in salaries. According to the survey data, salaries for both male and female architects are on the rise. The number of UK architects working full time who are earning £33-60,000 a year has increased from 49 per cent last year to 60 per cent, while, encouragingly, the proportion earning less than £33,000 has dropped by nine points to 30 per cent.

For the average architect, the pay gap appears to be slowly decreasing. For the first time there are now just two percentage points between the number of women (22 per cent) earning £33-36,000 a year – the most common pay band – and the number of men (24 per cent).

But some responses from female architects suggested a different trend. One resigned from her job after finding out her male colleagues were being paid more.

‘I was appointed at the same time as a man with no more experience,’ she recalled. ‘The appointment letter got muddled up and I learnt his offer was £21,000 while mine was £19,000.’ Another said: ‘I now am in a position where I am earning the same as my male peers, but some time ago discovered I was earning significantly less (at least 15 per cent). I had the difficult talk and the situation was rectified. If I had not discovered the situation – by accident – I would still be in exactly the same position.’

‘Strength in numbers and combined negotiations are needed’

These accounts are not just anecdotal – evidence within the survey suggests there are still large disparities at the extremes of the pay scale.

A 13-point difference lies between the full-time salaries of men and women at the lower end: 34 per cent of female architects earn less than £33,000 a year, compared with 21 per cent of male architects. This inconsistency is also reflected at the top end of the salary scale: 17 per cent of full-time male architects earn more than £61,000 compared with just 5 per cent of female equivalents – a 12-point gap.

At director level, women’s pay is wide-ranging: most earn £33-36,000. However, 6 per cent of female directors are paid £16-20,000 and 12 per cent earn more more than £100,000.  This is significantly different from the earnings of male directors, where salaries are clustered around the top end of the pay scale. One third earn more than £75,000, compared with just 7 per cent of female directors – a disparity of 26 points.

The problems begin on entry to the profession, with pay inequality for Part 1 and Part 2 year-out students. Fifty per cent of full-time male year-out students earn £21-26,000, yet just 41 per cent of their female counterparts earn the same. Almost 30 per cent of female year-out students earn below £21,000, compared with just 8 per cent of males in this category.

Men are also less inclined to favour pay transparency, with 62 per cent answering ‘no’ to the question ‘Do you think that everyone should know their colleagues’ earnings?’ compared to 48 per cent of women.

Female respondents said transparency would ‘foster parity in earnings for both men and women’ while ‘incentivising practices to ensure they are not engaging in unconscious gender bias’ and giving staff ‘something to aspire to’.

Female architects’ perceptions of their salary in relation to male colleagues at a similar level have changed little. Almost a third (29 per cent) believe their male counterparts earn more, while 45 per cent of female architects think they would be paid more if they were male. In stark comparison just 5 per cent of male architects think they are paid more than women in the same jobs as them.

About the survey

The AJ’s Women in Architecture Survey has become a major annual event and this year, more people than ever have taken part – 1,104.

It hasn’t just been women responding: 20 per cent of responses came from men, allowing us to compare what male and female practitioners think.

As well as architects – who made up 56 per cent of respondents – clients, consultants, academics, engineers, PRs and developers also filled out the survey.

Now in its fourth year, the survey forms a vital part of The AJ’s on-going programme aimed at raising the status of women in the profession and celebrating their work.

The annual data, collected anonymously and focused this year on the UK profession alone, allows us to track progress in perception, pay equality, and gender balance over time. Previous results have been published widely in the national media, used by the RIBA, and referred to by government. 

The evidence published reveals the definitive picture of the life of a working, female architect today.

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