A recent .Mic article reports that while technology seems to get all the media attention when it comes to the gender gap, architecture may fare even worse. Though men and women study architecture in almost equal proportion, as soon as the first professional opportunity (i.e. an internship) arises, women’s participation rates start dropping.
As usual, we don’t have enough data to really explain the numbers. Do female students choose not to apply for internships after studying architecture? Are they not selected for them? Internships are typically required as part of a package of state licensure requirements to become a licensed architect. However, at an architecture firm, not all employees are licensed architects and some employees — called designers — perform some similar work to that done by licensed architects. Are more women designers rather than architects, then? Generally, its considered more prestigious to be a licensed architect — and of course, its required in some positions and for certain jobs. There’s a bit of debate among designers and architects about how useful it is to become licensed and here’s a taste of the issues.
According to the American Institute of Architecture, 18% of licensed architects are women. That makes the 17% female principals and partners leadership figure look pretty representative once you get past the initial drop-out rate. It seems once you have decided to go through the grueling process of licensure and exams, women do almost just as well as men in architecture in becoming leaders of their firms. A San Francisco-based group called The Missing 32% Project supports improving the numbers of licensed women architects, holding events, conducting surveys and trying to provide information and research. Their 2014 survey has recently closed but results (anonymous users and firm names) will be published within the next two months so I’ll watch this space and report back. In the meantime, I encourage female designers and architects to talk about their firms, and things like culture and policies on Fairygodboss to see if that might be behind some of the numbers.