The XX Factor: Where Are the Women In Architecture?

When it comes to women in architecture, the numbers just don’t add up. According to a recent article in Architectural Record, 40 percent of architecture students in this country are females—but women make up only 23 percent of working architects. The numbers shrink at the upper levels of the profession, where it is estimated that just 17 percent of the people leading architecture firms are female. When the San Francisco chapter of the American Institute of Architects recently started a petition asking architecture firms to increase representation and participation of women to 50 percent, the association joined an international chorus of voices asking, “Where are the women?”

We put the question to three women who have beaten the odds to make it in a world where they are often the only female in the room. Anne Fougeron (center), principal at Fougeron Architecture, says that underlying sexism keeps women from reaching the top. “Even today, when I walk onto a job site, contractors ask me if I’m an interior designer,” she says. She adds that the glass ceiling becomes even harder to break when you factor in elements such as an antifamily climate, long days, and years with little pay. “It seems that most architects do their best work after practicing for 50 years, and if you take time out to raise a family, it’s hard to get to that point,” she says.

When fellow architect Marsha Maytum (left) of Leddy Maytum Stacy started architecture school in the early 1970s, she was surprised to find that there were no restrooms for women on the main floor. “For awhile we had to walk down three floors to the bathroom,” she recalls. More than 30 years later, Maytum is dismayed to find that “we are still nowhere near 50 percent of the architectural workforce.” For her, the key is mentoring. “It’s essential to have role models who can show that the path to the top is available,” she says. “I would urge architects in leadership roles to reach out to young women, and I would encourage women to take jobs in firms where they will be allowed to excel.” Lisa Iwamoto (right) of IwamotoScott Architecture sees movement of a needle that had been stuck. “I teach at UC Berkeley, and in some of my classes the student body is 70 percent female. With numbers like that, I would expect to see some change in the near future.” Iwamoto’s best advice for women in the field? “Refuse to put up with bullshit.”

This was originally published in California Home + Design's Fall 2013 issue. Click here to subscribe.

Add a Comment