Women Architects and Career Advancement
Damaris Hollingsworth - tcbmag.com

Women Architects and Career Advancement

Women Architects historically lag behind men for career opportunities. As the pool of women architects grows each year, they are still not in a place of equity. As the canvas of opportunity changes for women in architecture, what are the obstacles going forward? We’ve taken inventory of the statistics and present them here along with fodder for thought.

The Glaring Stats

Over 162,777 architects currently work in the United States, 22.6% are women, and 70.6% are men. (Zippia, 2021) How do we overcome this inequity? Today, there are more women in architectural schools and the horizon looks brighter, but there remains a lot to overcome. Is there anything we can do to enable and facilitate a more equal opportunity?  

From its inception, the architecture field has not been accessible to everyone. Things took a turn in the late 1970s – surveys were conducted about women in the profession and leadership roles. In 1958, only 1 percent of women achieved registered architect status. By 1988, the number grew to 4 percent and 13.5 percent by 1999. The growth for women architects remains slow. 

The data further reveals that the number of registered women architects achieving senior management levels, becoming partners, and owning architectural firms are not growing at the same rate as their male counterparts. (AIA, 2020)

Today, women comprise approximately half of the students in architecture schools, according to a 2018 report in Artsy. But these optimistic numbers drop sharply from being students to turning professionals, resulting in only up to 18% licensed women architects. What’s more concerning is that just three of the top 100 architecture firms are women-led. (Kwun, 2018)

Nowhere is the imbalance between men and women in architecture more noticeable than in the transition between education and career. 

Gender Wage Gap

The “Gender Wage Gap” is the average difference between the income of a man and a woman in a career field. Money and status have traditionally been a part of choosing architecture as a career but knowing this disparity from the start is discouraging to women with ambition to be high wage earners.

The Association of Collegiate Schools in Architecture studied the gauntlet for women from student to accomplished professional and the numbers are revealing.

Where are the Women? Navigating the pipeline through the profession
Graph Source: ACSA

The best recourse to remedy disparity is to find influencers to focus and educate those in the profession to do better. Women must find cohesive organization, mentors and support as though they are readying for conflict and facing the unexpected.

My Experience in the Design-Build World

I started my career in the building design world as an anomaly. There were very few if any women at the table negotiating or designing commercial construction projects in the 1980’s. My market vertical of independent banks and credit unions was even more exclusive. The leadership here was male, preferring to talk to male architects and general contractors.

The discussion around the “why” I was alone at the table wasn’t a welcomed topic. Thirty years later, I find less of these struggles. It has given me hope but still pause for concern and a new voice for change. I’m looking for new narratives.

Lead By Example

I see women architects like Damaris Hollingsworth, a recipient of the 2020 Young Architect Award by the AIA. She is known as the “inclusive architect” and was invited to do a TEDx talk in Minneapolis to talk about her views.

Here Damaris talks about wanting to “hide” because of the language and cultural disparities she felt as an American starting college in Brazil. The overcomer in her is the big story here. She now designs buildings to promote togetherness – “culturally accessible” structures. Designing for diversity changed her trajectory. According to Damaris, a building can change you forever.

Where are the Damaris’s in the world? I want to know you. I want to work with you. This is how we will win over a mindset.

Haltner Design + Build Is Improving Workplace Diversity

Women architects are increasingly confident. They are working with emerging technology such as sustainable solutions for building materials, energy generation and consumption, systems design, accessibility, and more.

A fulfilling career in architecture starts with community. What are you dialled into? Where do like-minded individuals go to promote the things, you care about? In numbers, we are strong. This is a key concept to implementing change. Find other Damaris’s out there and be inspired. Follow them. Get to know them and where they hang out and what they do to promote themselves in their professional lives. Connect with them on social media platforms and engage in the conversation.

Connect with me; I carved a path for myself and started Haltner Design + Build 30 years ago without the walls of gender. My one-team design-build integration delivers cohesiveness between our internal teams. I believe in nurturing long-lasting relationships with both internal and external clients. As we see more women CEOs at the table, we want to reflect that back to them with our cohesiveness and emphasis on opportunity for women in design and construction, as well as other marginalized professionals. 

If you are looking to build a niche for yourself in the industry with a mentor and ally, this is the right place for you. I love to interact with aspiring women architects and design professionals. Connect with me here on LinkedIn or find us at haltner.com. The future for women architects looks bright!

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