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Women in architecture 2013: Introduction

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After a successful inaugural year, the AJ campaign has swapped Barbie on the cover for real women architects, says Christine Murray

Launched with a provocative edition of The Architects’ Journal with a re-styled Architect Barbie on the cover, last year’s AJ Women in Practice issue made a lot of noise.

The survey, campaign, awards, luncheon and winners’ talk, intended to raise the status and profile of women in architecture, was picked up around the globe, from BBC Radio 4’s Women’s Hour to NBC Washington, and The Huffington Post to Australia’s Parlour website.

The AJ Women in Architecture campaign began with a question - why do women leave architecture? - and a challenge from architect Barbara Weiss, who had the idea of publishing the first-ever women-centered issue of the AJ in its 117-year history. It culminated in the inaugural AJ Women in Architecture luncheon, a sold-out event, with guest speaker Zaha Hadid, winner of the Jane Drew Prize, and a keynote address by Farshid Moussavi.

AJ Women in Architecture was shortlisted for Campaign of the Year by the British Society of Magazine Editors, and contributed to the AJ winning IBP Magazine of the Year.

More than one architect has anxiously asked me whether that would be the end of it. One of the reasons we launched the AJ Women in Architecture Awards was to keep the campaign alive indefinitely - or at least until equal pay and status for women architects is achieved. Thank you to our sponsors, Roca and Place Careers, for joining us again in supporting AJ Women in Architecture for the second time.

This year sees the campaign mature - for this special edition of the magazine, we’ve swapped Barbie on the cover for two real-life inspiring architects, Walters & Cohen, joint winners of the 2012 AJ Woman Architect of the Year award. We’ve surveyed the profession once more and present a report on this year’s statistics on the glass ceiling, unequal pay and discrimination in the workplace - running this survey annually will enable us to track change as it happens.

And, while last year’s issue featured interviews with more than 60 female partners and directors, this year we’re profiling the 15 architects shortlisted for Woman Architect of the Year and Emerging Woman Architect of the Year, as well as featuring contributions from Phyllis Lambert on Jane Jacobs, Yasmin Shariff on how women fare in other professions, Walters & Cohen on how to keep women in architecture, and Hannah Lawson, winner of the 2012 Emerging Woman Architect of the Year award, on latent sexism in the profession.

The Woman Architect of the Year and Emerging Woman Architect of the Year awards will be judged by our esteemed panel, which will also choose the recipient of the Jane Drew Prize. This will be presented to the person who has made the greatest contribution to the status and profile of women in architecture - last year’s recipient was Zaha Hadid. This year’s jury includes Martha Thorne, Laura Lee, Moira Gemmill, Victoria Thornton, Doreen Lawrence, Colette O’Shea, Ivan Harbour, Paul Monaghan, Peter Rees, Rafael Viñoly and Zaha Hadid.
The winners of the awards will be announced at the AJ Women in Architecture luncheon at the Langham Hotel on 22 March, where Denise Scott Brown will deliver an exclusive pre-recorded address.

The luncheon will be followed in a month’s time by a winners’ talk, and later in the year with a new event, the Back-to-Work Breakfast. This is specifically for working mothers who have taken a career break and would like advice about re-entering the workforce. As part of the campaign, I’ll also be hosting a panel discussion at the Roca Showroom on 8 March, International Women’s Day.

Although the statistics in the survey are shocking, the remainder of this special edition makes for an inspiring read. It takes more than grim headlines to effect change. If the London Olympics aimed to ‘inspire a generation’ in sport, I hope the women in this issue will inspire a future generation of aspiring architects to overcome the odds and reach qualification.

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