Architecture has always been kind to the architects who can experiment with forms irrespective of gender; but this question is still unanswerable. From the first woman to have worked as a professional architect, Louise Blanchard Bethune to the globally recognized Zaha Hadid, the contributions of women architects to the built environment have been plenty. Urmila Eulie Chowdhury is the first women architect in India who helped teams by Le Corbusier with plans and construction. The balance between career and earnings is what plays a huge role in seeking opportunities in architecture today. Further to this, the misconception of women not knowing technical details adds to the struggles women face in the field of architecture. Given a chance, women can outshine and break the majority domain men hold in architecture.

Are women architects filling the gender gap ? - Sheet1
Female Architect presenting project concept_©shutterstock

Woman of Strength

Women architects are bound to be treated low in knowledge or power in the male-dominant industry. To break open the obstacles, women go through the difficult journey to grow strong in terms of dealing with all disciplines in architecture, be it the client or the mason or the engineer. Criticism is significant for any art but being unnecessarily blamed for being a woman is unacceptable. For instance, the Japanese architects criticized Hadid’s work for the National Stadium in Tokyo as embarrassing. Although the women students in architecture school are the majority, it’s a mystery what happens to that number when they aren’t found practicing in the industry. Another conflict that lets women step back is the strenuous effort women must put to attend to chores at home and get back to work. The lack of self-confidence and women being bullied at work are some of the reasons why architecture lost many women. It is persistence and competence that keeps women going although it is stressful with lower pay and overtime working.

Are women architects filling the gender gap ? - Sheet2
Architect on Site_©istockphoto

Woman Architects from History

Women architects in history who haven’t been talked about or made familiar are disappointing to young women architects today, making an impression that women in the past have been backward in architecture. Architecture competitions in the past centuries awarded lower prices to women in comparison to men but this didn’t stop Architect Sophia Hayden Bennett from participating and she bagged the first prize for the design and execution of Woman’s Building for the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago. She was criticized later for poor supervision due to the sexist attitude men had then. Women weren’t allowed to practice the art or seen on construction sites in the 17th century, so Lady Elizabeth Wilbraham would send men misperceived as architects to supervise construction. She has designed over 400 grand houses and is often not credited for her works. Some women architects who work in the shadow of their colleagues or partners are often not attributed for their works. Marion Mahony Griffin, the first employee of the well-known FL Wright, was not credited for renders or illustrations, but she accepted the offer of his successor taking full charge over his designs. These legendary women could be an inspiration to place women architects today in top positions.

Are women architects filling the gender gap ? - Sheet3
Woman Architect_©pinterest

Initiatives for Woman Architects

To empower women in the construction industry, there have been a lot of initiatives and organizations training women with the right tools and skills in the design field. One of the first women architects’ associations was Association for Women in Architecture and Design (AWA+D) founded by Alpha Alpha Gamma in 1922 providing mentoring and resources for students and architecture professionals. Their 50:50 initiative demands gender equality and to achieve an equal ratio of men and women in architecture. Another mention would be AAXX, a multimedia project involved in events, research, exhibitions, collection of books, and writings of women. There are also online platforms for like-minded folks in women such as Die Architektin where women come together and post about common issues women face in the industry. The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) has come up with an annual day called Ethel Day celebrating some of the women’s best contributions to Architecture. Some other organizations which envision a future for women in Architecture include Architectural Record: Women in Architecture Forum & Awards, Architecture+Women•NZ, Architexx, Associazione Donne Architetto, Building Equality in Architecture Toronto, International Archive of Women in Architecture, Parlour, Prix des femmes architects, Union Internationale des Femmes Architectes, WAT, Women Architects, etc © Copyright

Women Architect_©The New York Times

Integrating women into architecture and construction disciplines is not just about resolving the issue of gender gap women architects aren’t able to fill but also about the impeccable future that women can shape and create. Relegating women to a lower edge would discourage young talents from not choosing architecture as their major. The students should be nourished and nurtured with skills to live in architecture rather than survive. Missing out on the power and skills of women architects is a loss for the industry. The social injustice issues can be addressed in unity if the women architects are acknowledged as architects first. 


Rohini M is an Assistant Architect in Atkins, Bangalore. She is also certified LEED Green Associate and COA registered Architect. Moreover, she also contributes articles to Building Design Journal in Atkins UK. She is a go-to person for hand made cards for any event or wall arts in the firm.