What makes and unmakes (women) architects?

Architecture sees itself as an altruistic profession, one that makes a significant contribution to public life. Aligned with this is the assumption that it functions as a liberal meritocracy – that is, architecture is neutral with regard to gender, class and race. Statistics, however, tell another story. For example, in Australia, women have been graduating in almost equal numbers for some decades, yet only 1% of architectural company directors are women and women make up only 20% of the profession (as measured by registration/licensing).

Feminist architectural theorists have mined the humanities for concepts to help explain architecture’s slowness to accept women, yet, as Sherry Ahrentzen points out, this has had little effect in ameliorating the phenomenon. On the other hand, extensive social science research shows that architecture is not alone in these patterns, but this research is rarely discussed within architecture.

Gill Matthewson explored this knowledge gap in a paper presented at The Making of Architects / Architecture in the Making, the International Workshop of the Architectural Sociology Working Group in Darmstadt, in February 2012. This uses qualitative research techniques from the social sciences to examine the ways gender is implicated in the structure and practice of the architectural workplace. This will become the groundwork for the case studies with BVN Architecture, Bates Smart and PTW. We hope to be able to present the full text of this paper shortly.