Women at the helm of architecture in NSW in 2019

Women at the helm of architecture in NSW in 2019

8 March 2019 – International Women’s Day

Times are changing in the traditionally male-dominated world of architecture, with women taking up key leadership positions influencing the profession in NSW. On 4 February Dr Kirsten Orr commenced in the role of Registrar at the NSW Architects Registration Board (NSWARB) and Crone Architects’ Kathlyn Loseby began her term as NSW Chapter President of the Australian Institute of Architects (the Institute). There Ms Loseby joined National President Clare Cousins, who will hand over to NSW-based President elect Professor Helen Lochhead in May 2019.

But further change is needed. The latest Parlour census shows more women are staying in architecture, becoming registered and developing their presence as employers and business owners. However, census employment data also indicates that women still face significant gender-based bias and discrimination in the profession.

Parlour reports that: ‘Growth is more muted than might be expected…women’s representation at senior levels of the profession is still disappointingly low… the gender pay gap widens as an age cohort grows older, and…many women are still disappearing from the profession altogether.’

These newly appointed female leaders are well placed to help bring about the positive change required, by direct example and through committed advocacy for equity within the profession.

On the announcement of her appointment, Ms Loseby noted that equality would be a priority focus of her presidency. ‘We want to ensure everyone has the opportunity to thrive and grow within the profession. Equity is essential for realising this opportunity,’ she explained.

‘While the successes of individual women are admirable and inspiring and absolutely to be celebrated, we need more than rare examples. Equitable thinking needs to be instilled everywhere and in everyone; it needs to become the norm, not the exception.’

Ms Loseby will share the Chapter President role with Laura Cockburn, director at Conrad Gargett. ‘Through providing a real-world example of effective senior role sharing we hope to encourage other women to consider taking up key positions,’ said Ms Cockburn. ‘By sharing the responsibilities we can also engage our members more effectively and gain greater exposure for the profession.’

As Registrar of NSWARB, Dr Orr is particularly keen to promote a better understanding of architecture in the broader community through new partnerships and interdisciplinary collaborations with allied professions. ‘There are incredible opportunities to develop an expanded program about architecture’s role in improving the liveability of our cities,’ she said. ‘And an architectural profession characterised by equity strengthens that role and enhances its offering, because a profession that values inclusivity and diversity stands to move forward and cultivate the best and brightest.’  

‘The Institute and my own Faculty of Built Environment at UNSW are two examples of how promoting equity and setting targets can accelerate change and propel women into leadership roles,’ said Prof Lochhead. ‘With more women role models who are also decisionmakers, many more doors should open to women in the profession.’   

Download hi-res portraits:
Kathlyn Loseby (Photo credit: Ali Nasseri)
Laura Cockburn
Prof Helen Lochhead
Dr Kirsten Orr


Kathlyn Loseby

Kathlyn Loseby graduated from the University of Sydney with an honours degree in architecture and has worked in the UK and Sydney for a number of leading architectural firms.

Kathlyn joined Crone as chief operating officer, bringing sound business acumen and an appreciation of quality design. After graduating from the University of Sydney with an honours degree in architecture, Kathlyn worked at Foster + Partners, SOM, Allen Jack + Cottier and Turner. During this time she advanced her business studies and earned her MBA.

Kathlyn is the NSW Chapter President of the Australian Institute of Architects, in which capacity she works with industry leaders to improve the built environment and advance the profession.  

Laura Cockburn

Laura is a registered Architect with a Bachelor of Architecture acquired from the University of Technology Sydney. She is a director at Conrad Gargett and has a keen interest in the collaborative approach to design that underpins her work. She has significant experience in successfully leading teams from master planning and concept design through to contract documentation and construction on complex large projects in the Defence and Infrastructure sector.

Laura’s strengths lie in fostering a strong client relationship from which the project can evolve. Many of Laura’s projects involve the compilation, dissemination and negotiation of complex client and user group requirements during the briefing stage and onwards through the life of the project. She achieves this whilst retaining balance and focus on achieving the best outcomes for all involved.

Dr Kirsten Orr

Dr Kirsten Orr is Registrar of the NSWARB and previously worked as an architecture professor and Dean of the School of Technology, Environments and Design at the University of Tasmania.

Beyond academia, Kirsten has been involved in the governance and regulation of the architectural profession as chair of the National Education Committee of the Australian Institute of Architects (2015 to 2016), and president of the Association of Architecture Schools of Australasia (2016 to 2017).

Since 2016, Kirsten has also been a director of the Architects Accreditation Council of Australia, providing leadership in the development and delivery of the new Architecture Program Accreditation Procedure and the brokering of mutual recognition agreements with Malaysia, Singapore and the United Kingdom.

Professor Helen Lochhead

Professor Helen Lochhead is an architect, urban and landscape designer and combines teaching, research, practice and advisory roles. Her career has focused on the inception, planning, design and delivery of complex multidisciplinary projects, in Australia and the USA.

Her projects have received numerous awards and her professional contribution to practice has been recognised through the Marion Mahony Griffin Award, the NAWIC Vision Award for leadership in the construction industry and the Australian Institute of Architects NSW President’s Prize.

A graduate of the University of Sydney and Columbia University, Helen has taught at the University of Sydney, UTS and UNSW and as a visiting academic at Harvard, MIT and Columbia Universities. In 2014-15 she was the Lincoln/Loeb Fellow at the Graduate School of Design at Harvard University and the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, where her research interrogated design strategies for building more resilient waterfront cities.

Helen is the National President elect of the Australian Institute of Architects.