What can the 2011 census tell us about the ‘half-life’ of woman architects? Gill Matthewson and Justine Clark take a look.

We recently came across an interesting post on the new website Professional Mums called “The Half Life of a Lawyer: Gender-demographics of Australian lawyers”. Catchy idea we thought. The post uses data from the 2011 census to show that “female lawyers should expect to spend less than half their life as a working lawyer” – and this in a profession where many more women enter the profession than men!

An earlier post asks the same question about lawyers, that we at Parlour are asking  about architects “Why do so many women leave law firms and where do they go?” This compares the careers of lawyers and accountants – and finds that the extreme patterns of attrition in law are not matched in accounting. “As in the legal profession women start switching out of accountancy in their late 20s, but there is a much more even ‘decay’ in numbers between women and men as they age.”

How does is compare with architecture we wondered? So the ever-efficient Gill Matthewson did some number crunching of her own and came up with the graph below.

Number of employed architects by gender. 2011 census data. Graph Gill Matthewson.

What does it tell us? The numbers of women peak in architecture at a similar age to law and accounting, after which there is a steady – one might say inexorable – decline. (And don’t argue its a ‘pipeline’ issue, it’s not just a matter of time – women have been graduating at around 40% for decades now.)

Interestingly, there is a dip in the number of men aged 45–49, which corresponds to the last recession, but no such dip in women – they just keep on dropping.

Then Gill went a little further – making the same graph for those who work full time (35 hours a week or more). Surprise, surprise, the ‘decay’ for women is even more pronounced – reminding us of the importance of that elusive thing, meaningful part-time work in architecture.

Number of employed architects working 35 hours a week or more, by gender. 2011 census data. Graph Gill Matthewson.

Lastly Gill compared the 2011 census data with that from 2006. Interestingly, this suggests that demographic for men in architecture has shifted somewhat since 2006, with 2011 seeing more men in their thirties and early-mid forties, fewer men in their late-forties and fifties, and more again in their sixties. In contrast, there are more women in 2011 than 2006, but the age profile remains quite similar.

Number of employed architects by gender, as indicated by the 2006 and 2011 censuses. Graphs by Gill Matthewson.

These graphs doesn’t tell us that much we didn’t already know, but they provide yet one more piece of evidence that things need to change or architecture will continue to lose a huge chunk of its ‘talent pool’ at a time when the profession really needs to keep smart, agile thinkers within its ranks.