“For a woman to go out alone in architecture is still very, very hard, It’s still a man’s world.”

~Zaha Hadid

Debunking myths surrounding female architects - Sheet1
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Many in the field of architecture still believe that this is perceived as a man’s profession and women to date have a hard time getting the breakthrough they deserve. There are many outstanding female Architects who have made a mark in the history of architecture, but not without much struggle. Architects like Zaha Hadid and Elizabeth Diller and many others have often gone on record and expressed how difficult it is for women to be taken seriously by clients and peers. A study on diversity in the profession by the American Institute of Architects proved that women strongly believe that there is no gender equality in the field of Architecture. Studies also state that there is a bigger percentage of women in Architecture college but this is not the case after practice. Females are a minority in offices, positions of power in government relating to Architecture, etc. 

Why does this happen? Why do so many Architecture graduates defer from practicing later on? 

One of the major reasons for this is because of the biased treatment in the industry. Female Architects are less likely to be promoted to more senior positions, and the pay scales mostly differ on the basis of gender. Generally, women have to work three times as hard to get noticed at par with their male counterparts. This happens because of the many myths that people have about working with female Architects. Everywhere in the world, more so in India, people have certain reservations about female professionals, and Architecture is no different. These reservations stem from the baseless assumptions people make which force them to believe that Female Architects are inferior to Male Architects. Let’s go ahead and debunk some of these myths about Female Architects:

Debunking myths surrounding female architects - Sheet2
©www.nytimes.com Female Architects cannot do fieldwork

Females are often perceived as the weaker sex and therefore deemed to not qualify as bodily manpower. This might be true for some jobs but in the field of Architecture, it is clubbed with the assumption that females are incapable of handling site work labeling it as “physical labor”. This is a ridiculous perception when you think of the role an Architect actually has on-site. Architectural site visits often require supervision, checks, and discussions which is a task for the mind and body, which any female is more than capable of. Contrary to popular belief, mild fieldwork required by the architect on site is not something that can be branded as “handwork” and unattainable by Female Architects. Due to this, women are often stuck in desk jobs rather than site works which often hinder their personal and professional growth as an Architect.

Debunking myths surrounding female architects - Sheet3
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Less conviction to persuade clients and contractors

Females are often mistaken as the underlings and incapable of having a strong position in Architectural discussions/meetings. This misconception stems from the basic expectation of women rather than a reality. Often women are expected to be polite in their dialect and always wearing a smile on their faces. Women with very strong opinions and values are regarded as “intimidating” or “rude” for being strict and professional. In the world we live in which is working towards equality and safety, women are mostly forced to wear a mask rather than take it off in their professional practice.

Women, therefore, have a hard time putting forth a strong yet humble point to spectators and be respected by everyone. Such stereotypes lead to cutting women off from meetings on the pretext of them not being taken seriously by clients. This undermines the basic sensibility of women to feel and integrate emotions with the design that convinces the clients. Women are better storytellers and more sensitive to the needs of users and workers. Rather than making use of this susceptibility of Female architects, they are suspended from important assemblies.

Debunking myths surrounding female architects - Sheet4
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Less aptitude for technical and logical aspects of Architecture

One of the most preposterous myths about Female architects and probably the first one to be debunked is that women lack an aptitude for logical reasoning and technical prowess. Women are often disassociated with such fields which is why there is a belief among many that women are not as technically sound like men and therefore less trustworthy while taking important architectural decisions. In most offices, men are given more tasks that require higher software proficiency. Women are stuck doing 2D tasks while males are deemed capable of 3D rendering and using advanced graphic software. This myth has no ground whatsoever, as women are more detail-oriented and capable of understanding multiple aspects of architectural details with more precision. Female architects are equally capable of grasping technical facets of building construction, sometimes with more intricate than their male counterparts. 

Not as stable as Male Architects

In India,women are still seen as homemakers, wives, and mothers and therefore people assume that a woman will not be professionally consistent. Most women after Architecture graduation face this discrimination where they are treated as temporary employees stating that they might relocate or quit post getting married. Married women are treated less dependably on the pretext of upcoming motherhood. This groundless myth is what scares females to invest time and energy into their careers only to be treated unfairly. They are rebuked for prioritizing their careers and ridiculed for focussing on familial obligations. Women these days are just as focussed as men to build a career and have a professional standing. Over years, females have proved to be capable of juggling their married lives, motherhood along with being a professional with ease. Being focussed on family or career doesn’t take away from the talents and skills that a Female Architect has. 

Women have a softer Language of Design

The association of women with the color pink is the kind of stereotype female architects face while practicing as well. Often, people assume that women are more prone to having a softer language of design relating to curves, pastel colors, floral patterns, etc. An architect design language however shouldn’t be something that can be judged based on gender, be it a man or a woman. Architectural specializations are also often characterized in a similar manner where women are advised to go for more subtle aspects of design like landscaping or Interior design. Time and again, Architects like Zaha Hadid have shattered such stereotypes by generating their bold statements in design rather than following what the society expects them to do. 

Debunking myths surrounding female architects - Sheet5
©quotefancy.com

Architecture is considered a gender-biased industry and is seen with an apparent lack of sensitivity to the issue thereof. These kinds of preconceptions are very common in the field of Architecture and women often find themselves stuck trying to prove and debunk these myths which don’t allow them to fully identify and enhance their talents in the field of Architecture. 

Debunking myths surrounding female architects - Sheet6
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References:

https://www.nytimes.com/2016/04/13/arts/design/female-architects-speak-out-on-sexism-unequal-pay-and-more.html

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/design-my-mind/201909/the-multi-story-brains-female-architects

https://www.re-thinkingthefuture.com/fresh-perspectives/a695-a-day-in-the-life-of-a-female-architect/

https://www.architectural-review.com/essays/why-do-women-really-leave-architecture

Author

Ojaswita is an Architect by profession and a Designer by passion. She is a creative and hardworking individual with a knack for trying new things, one of which is Architectural Journalism. An introvert who gets curious easily, she loves to find out about the different cultures of the world and the many stories they tell.

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