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News > Equity + Justice > Equity & Inclusion for Women in Architecture requires Men in Power to Act

Equity & Inclusion for Women in Architecture requires Men in Power to Act

Rob Fleming, AIA, LEED AP, NOMA
Rob Fleming, AIA, LEED AP, NOMA

Over the last few months, I have been approached by several women who shared their experiences about working as an architect in a male dominated profession. They shared their frustrations and the pain they experience in the daily practice of architecture. They also shared their hopes for what architecture might look like if all of us, especially men in power, step up and take the issue of women’s rights in architecture more seriously. 

On one hand, we can celebrate the increase of women in the pathway to architecture. Design schools are now equally balanced yet, women disappear from architecture at alarming rates. Women are less likely to become registered than men, less likely to ascend into leadership positions than men, and women are still paid less than men on average. Women of color fare even worse than their white female counterparts. It is no surprise that women leave the practice at a significantly higher rate than men.   

As a white male architect with power, I always thought of myself as a champion for women in architecture, but upon a deeper reflection I must admit I was not taking any action that justified that vision of myself as a champion. When I looked at my own career, my own interactions with women and the lack of advocacy I achieved for women in the profession, I realized that I was inadvertently reinforcing an inequitable status quo that still prevents women from practicing architecture with the freedom and power that men enjoy. 

Women have been advocating for equity in the field of architecture since the beginning. It is time for men to take a more active and intentional role in building equal opportunities for women to succeed or fail in the field of architecture on their own terms. Here a few suggested steps that men can take: 

Step 1: Examine your own career. Ask the question: Have I done enough to create an authentically equitable workplace for everyone in my office? 

Step 2: Take Action.  

  • Open lines of communication with women and use empathy to understand their specific experiences in the firm 
  • Recognize that women are not a monolith. There are different feelings about this topic and many nuanced thoughts and feelings.  
  • Make space for women to speak in meetings and make sure their ideas are heard and credit is given when it is due. 
  • Address pay inequity between women and men as soon as possible. 
  • Attend a Women in Architecture event and listen. There is no need to talk unless asked to speak. 
  • Send emerging leaders in your firm to the national AIA Women’s Leadership Summit. 

On behalf of the entire AIA Philadelphia Board, there will be more opportunities this year to learn more and contribute to this discussion. If you have any comments or feedback, please reach out to [email protected]

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