Several days ago, a kind of debate broke out on the MENTES networks around the role of women and the visibility of their work in architecture.
The most obvious way to exemplify this phenomenon is that of all the people who have won the Pritzker Prize, 88% are men. Only six women have won it: Zaha Hadid (2004), Kazujo Sejima (2010), Carme Pigem (2017), Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara (2020), and Anne Lacaton (2021).
In the United States, beginning in the late 1970s, the American Institute of Architects (AIA) began conducting surveys of women in the profession and their leadership roles. In 1958, 1% of the architects registered with the AIA were women. In 1988 that number had increased to 4% and in 1999 to 13.5%. Currently, only 17% of architects registered with the AIA are women.
The AIA Firm Survey Report 2020 reported that “Women (…) continue to represent a growing proportion of positions in [US] architecture firms” Between 2005 and 2019, the share of women in architecture positions increased from 25% to 37%.
Likewise, since the 1990s, the proportion of women in managerial positions has continued to grow. Women directors and partners of firms increased from 4% in 1999 to 16% in 2005.
However, despite these advances, the profession of architecture continues to be underrepresented in the demographics of the northern country.
According to this same report, of the total US workforce in 2019, 47% were women and the proportion of members of a racially and/or ethnically diverse demographic group was close to 40%.
This means that the gap in composition (between architecture and the national workforce in general) is narrowing by gender, as well as by racial and ethnic compositions, but has not yet disappeared.
“These gaps are expected to narrow further in the coming years as more women and members of diverse demographics enter the architecture profession.”
In 2019, 37% of all architecture staff were women, as were 46% of emerging professionals in firms on their way to licensing and 53% of architecture students working in firms, according to the AIA Firm. Survey Report 2020.
These figures seem encouraging, however, compared to the number of female students in architecture schools in the United States, they are not so.
The data shows that almost half of the students in architecture programs in the United States today are women. This number has progressively increased since the 1970s.
However, “the number of women registering with the AIA, or reaching senior management levels, or becoming partners or founding their own architecture firms has not increased at the same rate or in the same proportion as their counterparts from masculine architecture.
Some areas are still behind in establishing groups that can help guide young women architects to develop and stay in the profession.
In this sense, the spaces of and for women in architecture play an essential role in increasing the number of women architects and also the increase in women in managerial positions in firms.
Although we may have a similar idea, in Mexico we do not have sources of information with similar metrics that allow us to have a clear x-ray of the situation of women's participation in the national industry.
In this regard, communication and broadcast media such as MENTES play a very important role both in sharing and promoting women's work, and in supporting and raising the profile of women architects.
Involving, connecting and supporting women students and professionals is undoubtedly very important for the development of the next generation of women architects and to increase the viability and visibility of their participation in architecture. As well as to embark on new paths towards their leadership and that they can reach their full potential of giving back to the profession and the community.
Developing and promoting the growth of women in the profession is undoubtedly everyone's task, but especially theirs. Speaking specifically of the media and dissemination of architectural practice, I agree with the director of this medium when she says that: "[we women] cannot continue to blame the lack of spaces, or the devaluation of our voice" .
At least in the case of MENTES, I understand, the calls to participate and publish are open to everyone and, "the majority response is always male, when everyone has exactly the same opportunity to raise their voice."
Undoubtedly, a favorable environment is needed so that women (students and professionals) can promote and disseminate their work, but, following the director of this medium, "(...) it is not only about others extending us or opening the way for us , it is about us putting ourselves out there and showing what we are capable of.”
Needless to say, there are many brilliant and very talented women. Any answer you could give here to the question of why is it that fewer women respond to MENTES calls (and in general)? It would be an oversimplification of the problem.
The desired result is that the response by men and women be equal. But since this result does not occur naturally (due to various factors), then it must be forced. One way is by taking exclusive calls for women.
When this mini debate was generated, I couldn't help but feel part of the problem. At that time, those of us who made up the COLUMNS section were 5 men and 1 woman.
Faced with this situation, my position is as follows: on September 15, the International Day of Democracy was celebrated. An excellent pretext to remember that democracy is centered on people. the democracy ity is both a process and a goal, and only with the full participation and support of women can the ideal of democracy and participation become a reality for all to enjoy everywhere.
I would gladly give this space (lent by MENTES) to a woman interested in expressing her ideas and reflections through the written word.
My full recognition and support for this medium, its director and all the women who work in architecture or in any other area of professional life. And always encouraging women to participate…