When it comes to understanding the role of gender across various occupations, it becomes important to understand the notion of gender to understand its impact resulting from differential participation of the genders. Harriet Bradley defined the notion of gender as a “social construct”, and claimed it as both a “material and cultural” phenomenon. It refers both to the lived experiences of men and women concerning each other. It is an idea that has been developed to make sense of these relations and to frame them into a societal context. Material experiences give way to cultural meanings, which in turn influence the way these relations change and develop. He defines gender distinction with regard to birth; as for the moment one is born they are immediately  ascribed to a “gender identity” in the “cultural understanding of femininity or masculinity”. According to Mukerjee, it is important to understand the significance of the roles of masculinities in establishing organizational norms, since they greatly affect women’s experiences of work (Mukherjee,2021).

Women students and architecture pedagogy - Sheet1
How to Close the Gender Gap-by Colleen Ammerman and Boris Groysberg_©Bianca Bagnarelli

Architecture: A Biased Profession

Like many professions, architecture has a long-standing history of being a male-dominant and gender eccentric field, according to an investigation led by collegiate schools of architecture (ACSA) on inequality between men and women in the field, resulting in recognition of the field of architecture and designing as a high man dominating the field. Similarly, the 2020 edition of “Where are the women?” (led by ACSA), as the name suggests, addresses the concern, highlighting the disproportion in the field, claiming that even now women make up half the population but still fail to make an equal contribution into the discipline. The investigation concludes the 2018 annual report published by the National Accrediting Board, U.S. (NAAB) indicating that 46% of the total students enrolled in architectural programs were female, but their work has been suppressed under male dominance (A. Nicholson, 2020).

According to Karen Kingsley, “men and women have different approaches to design, they structure knowledge and experiences in different ways”, yet every year students enrolled in architecture schools are issued with readings written with a male perspective. The lack of gender parity in academia and the extent of imbalance in the profession, lead students to assume that the voice of authority within the discipline of Architecture is male.  She suggested that the current state of curricula that entails studios, assessments, and procedures is constructed around one type of experience and generally neglects and excludes women. She argues to re-evaluate the curricula and make them more inclusive to women’s interpretation (Quinlan, 1995). 

Women Students and Architecture Pedagogy

Karen Kingsley highlighted and put forth the evidence of exclusivity that existed in architecture from the beginning of time. She emphasized that the approach being taught in architecture history and theory mainly focuses on the great hero approach, which merely constitutes monumental work done by the male architects, depriving the readers and especially the students from the work produced by the women. This view is also supported by the work of the philosopher Christine Battersby, who claims that :

“With the denial of the heroine, the great hero/genius approach isolates and objectifies the designer, group, and work. It is an approach that provides only a partial view of our surroundings and ignores the contributions that women have made”. 

The most significant aspect of architectural education is that it is potentially infinite in its scope. The discipline of architecture in itself is deeply embedded within the culture and is closely connected to its teaching ideology and pedagogy. Architectural education is based on a patriarchal model of academic thinking and results in the production that particularly favors men. A survey of women faculty in the North American Architecture department claims architecture as a “gendered discipline” that frustrates and cripples the voices and participation of the women in the discipline. They believe that genderization in architectural education begins from the studios. They signified three main characteristics that contribute to sexism and the gendering within the studios: “education rituals and curriculum that support power, competition, and favoring of stereotypically masculine traits” (Ahrentzen and Groat, 1992).   

Where Are All the Female Architects?- By Allison Arieff_©Simone Noronha

Today’s women in architecture agree that times have changed indeed, and the critical prospects are changing. Even though in recent decades research and teaching norms are being shaped by women and are enriched by feminist analysis, Noeleen Murray of the university of western Cape argues that “the truth is that we are far from the cusp of the sexually equal horizon, and it is absurd to celebrate the victory prematurely” (Barac, 2013).

On the other hand, a paper submitted by Niculae on Gender analogies in architecture suggested that even though the architectural education and curriculum are evolving and are being shaped by a feminist perspective, contemporary architectural education is still being defined by the masculine paradigm. She argued that the persistence of patriarchal architectural principles, lack of women role models, and masculine design principles do not provide an equitable educational environment. She believed that there is a gendered division of academic labor for women in the field. She claims that for women students to be more active in the profession, it is important to represent the women architectural educators and academics that can inspire, motivate and encourage them (Niculae, 2014). 

References:

  1. Mukherjee, S. (2021). Women, Architecture, and Education. [online] Architectonics. Available at: https://medium.com/architectonics/women-architecture-and-education-e44f90cc5b38 [Accessed 1 Jan. 2022].
  2. A. Nicholson, K. (2020). Where Are the Women? Measuring Progress on Gender in Architecture. [online] Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture. Available at: https://www.acsa-arch.org/resources/data-resources/where-are-the-women-measuring-progress-on-gender-in-architecture-2/.
  3. Quinlan, A. (1995). (PDF) Women: Architecture Academia and Profession. [online] ResearchGate. Available at: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/256488257_Women_Architecture_Academia_and_Profession [Accessed 1 Jan. 2022].
  4. Ahrentzen, S. and Groat, L.N. (1992). RETHINKING ARCHITECTURAL EDUCATION: PATRIARCHAL CONVENTIONS & ALTERNATIVE VISIONS FROM THE PERSPECTIVES OF WOMEN FACULTY. Journal of Architectural and Planning Research, [online] 9(2), pp.95–111. Available at: https://www.jstor.org/stable/43029068 [Accessed 1 Jan. 2022].
  5. Barac, M. (2013). Women in architectural academia. [online] Architectural Review. Available at: https://www.architectural-review.com/architects/women-in-architecture/women-in-architectural-academia [Accessed 1 Jan. 2022].
  6. Niculae, R. (2014). Gender analogies in architecture. go.gale.com.
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Rethinking The Future (RTF) is a Global Platform for Architecture and Design. RTF through more than 100 countries around the world provides an interactive platform of highest standard acknowledging the projects among creative and influential industry professionals.

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