Gender and Sexuality in Architecture – “In other words, the body is a social construct, not an object of nature. And, when surrounded by unknown forces, it cannot be expected to recognize itself fully, but rather to constantly re-create itself, like space in architecture. Modern transparency no longer exists.”
The intersection of gender, sex, and architecture is intricate and widespread. Some contend that gender is the social creation of masculinity and femininity and that sex is the biological basis of male and female identity. Some completely reject the biological binary of male or female as being “natural.”
The challenge for design is to disrupt the gendered stereotypes of physical space and the behaviors that occur there. It is a call to challenge the notions of “man-masculine” and “woman-feminine,” and to comprehend how gender affects our organizations, goals, and decision-making.
The goal of sexuality and gender-sensitive design is to counteract spatial injustices by exposing the many discriminatory tendencies that are sometimes masked by gender-neutral points of view. It admits that urban environments are far from being gender-neutral. Because it can lead to a variety of generic design and decision-making approaches as well as a failure to recognize how different genders occupy space differently and have distinct requirements, gender neutrality is problematic. Even with the best of intentions, architects, politicians, and organizations can nevertheless discriminate against women and people of color by choosing to remain neutral. What’s at risk is that many people may not feel like they belong in civic settings and institutions as a result of their gender identification, which then causes them to participate in public life with caution (and frequently opt out of it altogether).
Even though women have been entering and leaving the field of architecture, it has long been assumed that men predominate in this industry. Women first began obtaining degrees in architecture in the 1980s. The newcomers were frequently demoralised and refused entry into the male domain.
Legal and institutional changes made possible by the rise of women’s movements in the 1970s promised to achieve gender equality in the workplace. This contributed to an increase in the enrollment of women in educational programmes. Yet, a lot of women quit the field of architecture after receiving a successful architectural degree or after several years of work.
The number of women practising as licenced architects does not account for almost half of the number of women graduating from architecture and design schools each year, according to surveys conducted by the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture (ACSA) and other organisations.
An increasing number of women are leaving the fields of architecture and design. This is a significant loss of talent and drives the architecture and design needed. Additionally, if a woman manages to maintain her career, her peers will not support her and will place little value on her.
Conferences and events make the gender gap in architecture and design clear.
The field of architecture requires a great deal of creativity, effort, and time. And since they enjoy their work, women, like many of their male counterparts, continue to practice architecture.
With the times, many architectural businesses have begun to promote gender equality to give both men and women equal value and opportunity. Female architects and designers are encouraged to participate in campaigns by organizations like reSITE. Better personal policies, such as paid family leave, carer assistance, and health, are needed to maintain women flourishing in the field of architecture.
Zaha Hadid, Lina Bo Bardi, Neri Oxman, Odile Decq, Brinda Somaya, Abha Narain Lambah, Sheila Sri Prakash, Shimul Javeri Kadri, Anupama Kundoo, and many more are examples of accomplished female architects.
In addition, gender bias has had a significant impact on how buildings look and function. To disprove the idea that architecture may be gendered by design, Hannah Rozenberg, a graduate of the Royal College of Art, worked on her thesis, “Building without bias: An architectural language for the post-binary.”
Women in architecture will make up 50% of the leadership in architectural firms by the year 2222. Indeed, that will be in about 200 years! Just have a look at the figures published by the “Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture” if you find this assertion to be alarming. The American Institute of Architects has a 160-year formal history, which ACSA reported on in 2014 and 2020. (AIA).
Nonetheless, we are gradually moving towards a society in which job discrimination against women is less common. But the pervasive, covert barriers that prevent women from holding senior positions in the field of architecture in a developed nation like America are puzzling. In America, there are 50% more women studying to become architects than there are registered architects, at 17%. This figure illustrates how undervalued women architects are in the field—not due to a lack of skill or competency, but rather because of gender and sexuality overt bias.
Even though architecture has sincere intentions to contribute to the inclusive and egalitarian society of the twenty-first century. According to research, “women must be more knowledgeable, stronger, and outperform the men within their business to grow and be recognised as important assets to an enterprise” (Saar, 2005). Through their studies and articles, the 160-year-old American Institute of Architects (AIA) and American Collegiate Association of Architecture (ACSA) highlighted the fact that there are currently 17% registered women architects, up from 1% in 1958, 4% in 1988, 13.5% in 1999, and 16% in 2005, with a goal of 17% in 2020.
Results of a survey of leading architecture firms published in November 2017 revealed a “very alarming” absence of sexuality and gender diversity at senior levels. Only three of the top 100 architecture companies in the world are led by women, and only two firms have management teams that are more than 50% female, according to a survey by Dezeen Magazine. Just 10% of the top positions at the most prestigious architecture firms in the world are held by women. At each level of management, the proportion of women decreases, and there are no women in senior roles at 16 of the top 100 companies.