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How the architecture industry can attract & retain women in architecture

Article-How the architecture industry can attract & retain women in architecture

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Globally renowned architect and author, Sumita Singha OBE, delves into how the architecture industry can better serve women in the future in her new book Thrive: A Field Guide for Women in Architecture, where she tackles barriers to progress, how women’s work is critical to the longevity of the architecture industry, and takes on the pivotal role of role models and mentoring.

Hailed as a practical guide to help female architects globally, Thrive: A Field Guide for Women in Architecture tracks the progress of women across the world and asks the age-old question: do barriers still exist in the profession for women to advance?  

Written by Sumita Singha, who heads up UK-based sustainable design firm, Ecologic Architects, the book delves into how the profession can better serve women in the future. It takes a microscopic look at why understanding the barriers and history of women in architecture is so important in the field, expands on the opportunities and visibility of women in leading roles, and spotlights the importance of role models and mentoring.  

Offering up practical tips for all women from across the ranks in the architecture industry, Singha maintains in the book that women’s work is critical to the longevity of the profession. 

ARCHITECTURE NEEDS WOMEN 

Awarded the Order of the British Empire, Singha is a chartered architect and educator having served on several RIBA committees in addition to founding the institute’s Architects For Change, which focuses on equality, diversity and inclusion within the profession. 

Her experience in the industry has made her a force to be reckoned with globally and her years of industry knowledge has been packed into the book to help other female architects. One of her sole focuses in the book is looking at attracting, recruiting and retaining women in the industry.  

“The book arose from the need to write about women in architecture from the viewpoint of three i’s – inclusion, internationalism and intersectionality,” says Singha in her introduction of the book. “The inclusion aspect is particularly important – it is when our cities and buildings become inclusive that they work for everyone. The change required in the profession also needs the help of men, through allyship, mentoring and support. We all need to work together.” 

For Singha, designing buildings and cities that work for women is being written about, however despite campaigns and prizes celebrating women architects, women remain a minority in the upper echelons of large architecture practices. 

Each chapter addresses a pivotal issue that women face across the industry and offers advice to move forward. From looking at the global history of women in architecture, considering the loss of women students from the profession while becoming registered to a look at how women can promote themselves, Singha takes an analytical approach as she delves into on-ground issues that women face and draws on innovative case studies from women-led practices, women architects working with other women professionals and women working together in collectives.  

HOW CAN ARCHITECTURE ATTRACT, RECRUIT AND RETAIN WOMEN? 

The book makes the observation that while a significant number of women choose to study architecture, once qualified they still remain in the minority and in some cases their expertise overlooked.  

“The aim of retaining young professionals up to and beyond full qualification, and providing career fulfilment to deter loss of women from the profession is key for today’s architecture practices. 

Recent surveys in the UK and in the US have found that women leave the profession for a variety of reasons, including inequitable pay, lack of advancement opportunities, inflexible schedules and long hours that might be incompatible with raising a family or maintaining a work life balance,” said Jane Duncan, OBE, renowned British chartered architect, who provides the forward in the book.  

For Duncan, understanding the barriers, creating and expanding opportunities and creating role models “may represent the best routes to creating better representation and career fulfilment for women and a secure future for practices.” 

It’s why Duncan believes that Singha’s practical tips in the book are essential for women in architecture. “The book seeks to create a truly innovative and practical guide for women architects to show how they have worked in the past and what’s changing, as well as how their experiences can be improved.” 

*Image credit: World Architecture News

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