Women in Architecture: to Be or Not to be a Mother

By Angela Fedele
Feb 4, 2015, Sourceable

The women in architecture debate can be a tired one.

It is no secret that women are leaving the profession in droves. This is supported by stories of gender inequality, poor working or pay conditions and the strain of balancing motherhood and an architectural career.

A 2014 Architects Journal survey found that 87 per cent of its women respondents believe that having children puts women at a disadvantage in architecture.


It is often considered that women in architecture only have two choices: to be an architect or to be a mother.

This almost “stuck” issue reigns true if you consider aligning statistics of women in architecture:

  • Women are generally scarce in senior architectural positions, particularly post graduation. In the UK, first year architecture studios have a 50:50 male to female ratio but the profession remains male-dominated, demonstrating that women are leaving at some point.
  • In the US, reports show that women now make up over 40 per cent of the architecture students in the US but only account for 23 per cent of those working in architecture.
  • In Australia, a 2012 Graduate Careers Australia report revealed gender pay discrepancies that is regularly highlighted as a reason for women, mothers in particular leaving the profession. The architecture and building industry had the highest pay gap across all industries at 17.3 per cent.

At the time, Shelly Penn, former national president of the Australian Institute of Architects called the results “hugely disappointing.”

“Despite similar numbers of female and male graduates for the last three decades, women are less likely to register as architects after graduation,” she said. “As careers progress, the barriers for women increase, as evidenced by lower numbers in senior positions and higher attrition rates; the need for part-time or flexible work hours when juggling career and parenthood also affects women most heavily.”

So rather than contribute to the “why are women leaving architecture” debate, it can be helpful to examine the lives and careers of three successful women in Australia’s architectural industry to see exactly what children have to do with it all. Read more…

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