Yesterday the Australian Institute of Architects announced its Gender Equity Policy. This is the cause of great celebration here at Parlour.

The policy is one of the key outcomes of the wider research project that Parlour represents, and is a particular commitment of Naomi Stead, the project’s leader.

Our research project has provided the broad evidence base for the policy and Naomi also undertook an extensive survey of equity policy in architecture elsewhere and in other related professions, with assistance from Neph Wake. All of this provided a strong background to the new policy.

Naomi describes the policy as a “strong, generous and positive document”. It  was developed by the Institute’s Gender Equity Working Group, which is chaired by Shelley Penn, Immediate Past President of the Institute. Naomi Stead, Amanda Roan and I sat on this working group and were instrumental in assisting with the preparation of a draft policy. The final policy was produced by Shelley and Ross Clark, the Institute’s Chief Operating Officer.

This serious engagement at the most senior levels of the Institute suggests that the policy has a real chance of effecting genuine change. Policy is important because it provides an framework to map the changes required and to assess the progress made. It is also a high-level acknowledgement that the playing field is not fair, and that the Institute is committed to addressing this.

The policy scope is to maximise fair and equitable access to opportunities for women relating to the following: ownership and leadership in the architecture profession; participation as employees in the architecture profession; representation and governance within the Institute (including committees, National and Chapter Councils, juries and selection panels); Institute programs, services and events; operational activities within the Institute.

This will be addressed through ten principles, each of which is further fleshed out in the full policy:

  1. Acknowledge the profession’s obligation to accommodate the diverse needs of the community.
  2. Recognise and respond effectively to the diversity of members.
  3. Incorporate provisions to ensure gender equitable outcomes in all new Institute initiatives.
  4. Communicate the value of women in leadership roles.
  5. Promote equality of employment arrangements.
  6. Support the development of alternative and flexible career pathways within the profession.
  7. Develop cross-gender mentorships and networks.
  8. Educate the profession about the impact of gender stereotypes.
  9. Actively seek input on the needs of women members.
  10. Develop and coordinate specific programs to give effect to this Gender Equity Policy.

You can read the Institute’s press release on the policy here.

Importantly, the policy mandates the formation of a national committee on gender equity, which will be responsible for doing the work to ensure that the policy has an effect.

The new policy is a symbolically powerful, and practically necessary step in the Institute’s commitment to ensuring of fairness and equity within the profession. We congratulate them on this significant act of leadership.

Naomi and I have had a little champagne to celebrate!