Established in 2011, Architecture + Women NZ was one of the first of the recent crop of advocacy groups grounded in gender equity. Beginning with a database and website, the energetic organisation from Aotearoa New Zealand now conducts a wide mix of projects – research, exhibitions, events, publications and an award program.
Architecture+Women NZ has a core group of approximately 12 people, and 20–30 people in the ‘wider core group’, who meet once a month to discuss and decide things together.
At the time of writing, there are almost 900 members. The organisation is free to join and there are only three criteria:
- Architecture: To have trained to the equivalent of a Bachelor Degree in architecture or similar discipline
- Women: To identify as female or non-binary
- New Zealand: To have either trained in New Zealand or reside in New Zealand.
Motivations and issues to address
Every year, there are 50% female graduates from the various architecture schools in NZ with equal skills and expectations of their male peers. Unfortunately, the profession does not serve them well due to structural and social barriers that tend to have an effect as women enter their second decade beyond graduation. By raising the visibility of the many women active in the architectural community, it is hoped that such barriers are removed or diminished, and that this will have a positive effect on the wider architectural community, beyond gender.
A+W NZ has a number of issues it aims to address – correcting the historical architectural canon, removing social and structural barriers to career progression, adjusting the profession to suit the contemporary workforce (eg reduced hour and flexible employment contracts), increasing the visibility of women working in architecture, increasing the presence of women in architectural publications, to have an effect on the profession to make it more inclusive…
Activities and action underway
A+W NZ Database
A+W NZ Dulux Awards Triennial programme + associated publication
A+W NZ Timeline (historical overview exhibition of NZ women active in architecture)
A+W NZ Tatuhi Drawing Archive A+W NZ publications (various) A+W NZ Mentoring programmes
A+W NZ Articles and research
A+W NZ Events (various, including Motu Kaikoura Workshop with SGA, the Fathers’ Forum, Ra Waiata and panels/presentations etc)
A+W NZ newsletters (monthly)
A+W NZ surveys
Plans for the future
We plan to continue all the activities listed above, and add more events/publications/exhibitions as the need arises. A+W NZ aims to fill the gaps left by professional organisations such as the NZ Institute of Architects (NZIA), and when the NZIA picks up or alters their actions so that they are more inclusive, A+W NZ will cease to work on that area and begin anew with other projects. A current project is the Fathers’ Forum, which aims to highlight the need for reduced hours and flexible employment contracts for men. (If such employment arrangements are removed from the realm of women, then action is more likely to be taken. The current conditions under COVID-19 have proven this).
As a non-profit volunteer-run organisation, a lot of time is spent on raising funds for our activities. The volunteer-nature of the organisation is a strength (energy / changing ideas in the core group, flexibility) but can also lead to burnout for some members who take on the majority of responsibilities and remain unpaid.
The impact of COVID-19
The A+W NZ has responded to the challenges of COVID-19 with agility! We held our third awards event online, and pre-recorded on Zoom with some live-cross on the night. This allowed the event to be free and therefore accessible to a wider audience (especially students and unwaged). It also allowed for overseas people to join in, and for people to watch the recorded version at a later time. We responded to the needs as they arose – with ‘Casual Conversations’ and ‘Lockdown Mentoring’ confidential online group discussions. Regular monthly meetings were maintained on Zoom, and regular monthly newsletters sent to members to ensure connectivity and continuity.
Advice to others
Establish the philosophical underpinnings (tikanga) of the organisation early. What are the core aims and intentions? Who is included/excluded? Is the membership free? How do you make the organisation accessible? Who benefits from the effects of the organisation, beyond the membership? There will be a lot of diverse opinion on these issues and plenty of challenging debates! In A+W NZ, it is not only an organisation for professionals, so the access and inclusivity needs to be very broad.
A+W NZ has support from its many sponsors, who vary from industry suppliers to individual ‘Friends’ donors. The NZIA has been a huge support and we work closely with them, although A+W NZ’s membership goes beyond the profession, also including artists, filmmakers, jewellers, landscape architects, project managers etc.
Current Co-Chairs: Divya Purushotham and Lindley Naismith
New Co-Chairs: Maria Chen and Anner Chong / Lynda Simmons