Here’s your daily dose of gender gap reality: although more women seem to be going into architecture, parity between the sexes remains far off in the field. The bearers of this bad news are twofold: an interesting inaugural column by Daniel Davis in Architect magazine and a survey he points to, released by the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture (ACSA) earlier this month.
The ACSA report, titled “Where Are the Women?,” gathers “some common and publicly available metrics” to illustrate the positions of women across different stages of the field. An infographic right at the beginning lays out the trajectory: plenty of women are enrolling in architecture school, but the numbers drop considerably as you approach the upper echelons of the field: employed architects, deans of schools, licensed AIA (American Institute of Architects) members, prize winners.
The stats cited in the report play out this picture: while just over 40% of women are enrolling and graduating from architecture programs, only 15% of licensed AIA members are women. Only 19% of deans at US architecture schools with accredited programs last year were women. And when you get to prizes — which, whether you like them or not, do indicate acceptance and recognition in a field — the numbers become absurdly depressing:
- Of 39 Topaz Medallions winners since 1976, 2 were women.
- Of 39 Pritzker Prize winners since 1979, 2 were women.
- Of 69 AIA Gold Medal winners since 1907, 1 was a woman.
Lian Chikako Chang, author of the report, is careful to qualify and question the data, but her conclusion sounds convincing:
… even with a sizable margin of error it is clear that there are far fewer women in practice than in school. This seems to be a “leaky pipeline” problem rather than a simple delay, because while the number of female students and graduates has stabilized at around 40% in recent years, the number of women working in architect roles has also stopped increasing, and has not gone much higher than 25%.
Davis’s column, meanwhile, looks at inequality in a specific subfield of architecture: design technology. Citing an Information Technology Survey by the Zweig Group consultancy, Davis writes that only 5% of technology directors at American architecture firms are women. He goes on flesh out the meaning and importance of that statistic, explaining:
Historically, the design technologist has been an auxiliary position, held by the person in the backroom administering computers while the architects did the real work of designing buildings. But as the computer has come to define contemporary practice, so too has the design technologist.
By Davis’s reasoning, the rapid changes that technology is bringing to bear on architecture are coming almost entirely from men, which doesn’t bode well for closing the gender gap. “The fast pace of technological development sharply contrasts that of the slow progression towards gender equity,” he writes. “As a result, we often discuss diversity in architecture by looking backwards at accomplishments and accolades when we should be looking ahead at the future leaders and disruptors in the industry.”
It’s worth noting, as Davis does, that architecture isn’t the only field where women lag behind in technology. Despite some growth, women remain underrepresented in STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) fields in the US, and a 2013 census report notes that (emphasis mine) “women’s representation in computer occupations has declined since the 1990s.” If undergraduate majors are any indication, that trend’s not going anywhere.
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