Landmark decision for architecture profession on gender equity

A major breakthrough for gender equity in the profession of architecture has been made with the Australian Institute of Architects’ National Council officially approving the organisation’s first Gender Equity Policy.

Institute President and gender equity advocate, Paul Berkemeier, was proud to announce council’s decision following its meeting on Thursday 5 December.

‘The disparity between male and female representation within the profession has been well documented and a growing concern not only for the Institute as the industry’s representative body but also for members of both genders.

‘It is with this in mind that I am delighted to share the Institute’s new Gender Equity Policy which will provide the foundation for improving operations within the Institute through our governance, programs and services, employment and leadership. The policy will assist our members and the profession more broadly in employing gender equitable practices in their day to day operations,’ Mr Berkemeier said.

The policy establishes ten best practice principles designed to maximise fair and equitable access to opportunities and participation for women within the architecture profession.

The development of the policy follows the Institute’s involvement since 2011 with the Australian Research Council funded Equity and Diversity in the Australian Architecture Profession: Women, Work and Leadership project, which is led by a large collaborative team of eight scholars and five industry partners.

Studies conducted as part of this project have provided qualitative evidence confirming that the participation rate of women in the profession is disproportionately low compared to the number of women graduates in architecture highlighting the specific need to encourage and provide guidelines for the industry to adopt a comprehensive and ethical approach to establishing gender equality across the field.

Immediate Past President and Chair of the Institute’s Gender Equity working group, Shelley Penn noted: ‘Despite similar numbers of female and male graduates for the last three decades, women are less likely to register as architects after graduation (only about 20 per cent of registered architects are women). We only rarely become directors of practices and are also less likely to participate in the profession more widely; for example, by joining the Institute, where less than 30 per cent of members are women.

‘As careers progress, the barriers for women increase, as evidenced by lower numbers in senior positions and higher attrition rates and the need for part time or flexible work hours when juggling career and parenthood affects women most heavily. This policy will go a long way in readdressing these imbalances.’

In addition to approving the policy, National Council endorsed the establishment of a National Committee on Gender Equity.

Responsible for ensuring and guiding the implementation of the policy and providing recommendations on additional actions, initiatives and programs, the committee will further drive gender equality within the architecture industry.

View the Gender Equity Policy.