With a massive population of 1,404,717,429, India’s architecture community forms a significant chunk of the Indian population. It is appalling how the demographics of this profession work.
Architecture as a curriculum can be physically and mentally strenuous, but it does not end there; if you manage to escape Architecture school unscathed, the professional life thereafter ensures that you grind and struggle through those years.
During and after British rule, India was not a very global country as opposed to what we see today. The people here still lived in silos and were unaware of the new developments happening the world over. With people’s beliefs still firmly rooted in guilds, design and construction were primarily considered artisans’ and craftsmen’s scope of work. Architecture as a discipline was yet to emerge in colonial India. Most South Asians and Indians alike were introduced to this field only in the twentieth century. The Western world had already produced architects of great caliber by then. A lot of architecture graduates back then either went abroad to gain a better perspective or acquire further education. Very few women chose to step into this male-dominated field then but a few who actually did were criticized for being bold and opinionated. Women were given far lesser opportunities to even pick this field let alone travel to a different country in order to gain more knowledge.
Most of this is applicable even today. With few to no provisions being made to ensure the safety of women in offices and on-site alike, the staggeringly low pay, crazy work hours, and no work-life balance, women are either forced to juggle their homes, kids, and the desire to do well professionally dictated right from the very beginning. Not only do men have ease of opportunity but they also do not have their credibility questioned every other day. Women on the other hand are expected to work like they have no families and look after their families like they have no career. And that seems like an unfair choice to make in today’s day and age where men do not have to constantly prove their worth.
Architecture schools throughout the country are seeing an all-time rise in the number of females enrolling in the course. Over the years, architecture schools have also mostly seen more male professors than females. The graph is gradually peaking with a marked rise in the number of females opting for architecture and further continuing to stay in the profession.
Salaries in the profession have always been meager as compared to other professions and yet, one sees a difference in the salaries given to women and men. It is oftentimes assumed that women may not be able to or would not want to go on sites and supervise work as required and thus are often given only office jobs.
There is a glaring divide between the number of female students in Architecture schools as opposed to women actually practicing the profession. As much as we see a steady increase in the number of female enrolments in this field, there is not much of a rise in the number of practicing females in the profession, and there could be multiple aspects associated with this but the major ones usually have to do with crazy working hours, low pay, unavailability of child-friendly office environments, societal pressure to maintain a work-life balance to name few.
Women today, are putting to use opportunities that they never had before and taking the effort to work in varied sub-fields of architecture. We see them starting their own practices, moving up the corporate ladder, and trying to make a decent living for themselves in this highly competitive and male-dominant profession. Women are also choosing to enter academics and teach in architecture schools, either full-time or as visiting professors. Most architecture school professors earlier were predominantly men. The scenario is gradually and hopefully changing for the better. We also see women play significant roles in the research and policy-making sector. It also is of utmost importance to have female representation in such sectors; it not only brings a different perspective to the table but also makes the authorities aware of the woes, obstacles, and the daily struggles faced by women across sectors.
Today, there is a marked rise in the number of successful female-led practices. Abha Narain Lambha, Brinda Somaya, Chitra Vishwanath, Anupama Kundoo, Annkur Khosla, and so many more! They are prime examples of how and why we must encourage the women in our profession to step forward, take the plunge, and do what they are meant to do. The architecture community as a whole needs to collectively step in and decide to work on providing women in our profession with basic needs. It is vital that we acknowledge, recognize, and appreciate the contribution of women to the field of architecture.