What is the data telling us?

Last week I attended the Brisbane Data Salon, jointly presented by Parlour and the Gender Equity Committee Queensland. This presentation revealed the confluences and influences of gender within the architecture industry. Gill Matthewson, in her third presentation of this data, revealed the real, measured statistics on issues such as pay, working hours, leadership / ownership roles and registration rates. Information was gathered from the census, registration boards and universities to compile one of the biggest statistical studies of our industry.

The results were often shocking, but unfortunately not surprising. Although things seem to be improving (slowly), there is still a long way for us ‘women in architecture’ to go… One of the biggest disappointments I often see in this data is the lack of female representation at a director or leader role. For many young women in our industry there is a lack of visible role models and obvious career paths.I had a friend asked by a male colleague why they were not surprised that the data shows so much inequality. They wanted to know, did she assume inequality from her own bias, or anecdotes, or lived experience? Well I can’t speak for others, but the reason I am not surprised by this data, is because I live it. I go to an industry night and see ten men for every woman. I got to consultant meetings as the only woman in the room. Also, I read the reports as soon as they come out. Just as I pored over the statistics Gill released on Parlour last year, and the year before that, and back to 2014. As a woman in architecture, this data is not mere numbers on a page, it actually affects my life – I need to know that the industry is still unfairly paying female graduates less than male graduates, that there are still limited possibilities for career advancement for women, that young women in architecture are lacking senior role models, that women feel they can’t get back into the industry after a career break. This affects me, my future potential in the industry, and my career path.

Once again there was a disappointingly low representation of males in the audience. I often hear that this ‘issue’ is old-fashioned and ‘these problems don’t exist anymore do they?’ Well the answers are right in front of us, through statistical data such as this. We know only 13% of architecture practice directors are female. We know only 24% of registered architects are female. We know only 3% of AIA Gold Medallists have been female. We know that in every age bracket of our industry, from 25-29, up to 60-64, female employees in architecture are paid less than male employees of the same age. We know these disparities exist, and sure we might not know why, but at least we know they’re real. And at these extreme levels we are seeing, they surely cannot all be explained away by ‘babies’.

What really does surprise me these days? That men, particularly directors, owners and managers don’t know these stats. Diversity enriches all aspects of our industry, whether it is based on gender, or age, or race, or cultural background or any number of individual character traits that make up a complex human. Encouraging a better gender balance in all aspects of our life, including work, can only be a good thing. And when the decision-makers of our industry have the facts, like these, they have the potential to really influence change across the board, and help us all #balanceforbetter. I would encourage all men; students, graduates, employees, bosses to read through this data, and see the issues that affect your co-workers. And hopefully, like me, you’ll see past the current unfairness, to the hope for the future that an informed industry can bring about.

You can download a full copy of the report here.

Happy breaking down institutional structures!

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