Issue date: 07 January 2003

Researchers at the University of the West of England have won a research contract from The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) to find out why so many women leave the architecture profession.

Although women now account for around 37% of those studying architecture, they only make up 13% of those actually practising within the architecture profession.

The research, which aims to establish why so many women leave architecture as a career after qualifying as architects, will be carried out through a web-based questionnaire aimed at women who have left architecture. It covers working and cultural patterns within the profession and possible reasons for leaving it. Female architects still working within the profession and students will also be invited to complete sections of the questionnaire.

The research team of Ann de Graft-Johnson (Project Leader), Sandra Manley, and Clara Greed has a wide range of expertise relevant to the study. Sandra and Clara are planning experts who have concentrated on issues of access in the built environment. Sandra, who is particularly concerned about access for disabled people and elderly people, says “With so few women working as practising architects their valuable input to our built environment is being lost to society. For example the needs of children, elderly and disabled people may not be as high on the agenda for men as they are for women. It is also a very costly and lengthy exercise to train architects, so losing such significant numbers once they are qualified is a great loss.”

Ann, who is a qualified architect, now combines part-time architectural practice with an academic career and says there may be cultural reasons why women leave the profession. She says, “My reasons for leaving full-time practice may not be typical – but I often felt that my ideas were not acknowledged or were taken over by other people. There also seemed to be a difference in the salary levels for men and women but it wasn’t made clear how these were decided.”

The research team want to hear from as many women as possible who have left the profession so they can get a clear picture of their reasons and suggest proposals for action. A lot of interest has already been generated in the project and feedback to date from women architects indicates that the research is very timely. Whilst the team want to ascertain why women are leaving the profession they also want to find out positive aspects of the work environment that would encourage women to remain in architecture. The key objective of the research is to establish guidelines and identify actions for the creation of a more inclusive culture. The results will be available from April.

The questionnaire can be accessed at the following web site so if you know of any women who have left the architectural profession or are considering doing so please ask them to log on to this site http://environment.uwe.ac.uk/womenarch/


Editor’s notes

The RIBA contract is worth £5,000.
The research team comprises:

Ann de Graft-Johnson, a Senior lecturer at UWE and an architect with substantial experience in gender, cultural and equal opportunities issues.

Sandra Manley helped develop and now teaches on the combined Architecture and Planning course at UWE. She lectures in Urban Design and her main interest is in inclusive design and the promotion of equitable environments.

Dr Clara Greed, also at UWE, has published extensively on gender and the built environment, access, disability, equal opportunities and ethnicity issues.

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