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A
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International Women's Day 2020
Current
2020
list Article list

International Women's Day 2020

We mustn’t be complacent, this International Women’s Day.

I recently went to a project meeting of about 14 people where I was the only woman in the room. This isn’t a rarity, I work in an industry where this frequently happens and it reminds me that it’s vitally important to consider the role we all play in encouraging women to stay in the construction and property professions.  While about half of architecture students are female, only about a quarter of qualified architects are female, which is a real loss of talent to the profession and wider industry.

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1 Centenary Square consultant and contractor team, Image of Women in Construction © Morley von Sternberg

Early role models

Thinking back to my early career, I had two fantastic female role models in The Cube design team: the cladding consultants Claudia Farabegoli and Susanne Hundert.

Claudia worked as a facade consultant for the developer, and Susanne was a consultant for the German cladding contractor.  The cladding design workshops were pretty intimidating for me as a young architect, particularly as the subcontractor’s main designer was a stubborn guy, about 7 feet tall, who usually just said ‘No’, with arms crossed, whenever I asked for a change to their drawings.

But having Claudia by my side, gently but firmly challenging the contractor and having Susanne across the table, cleverly finding the technical justification, it became a masterclass in not being intimidated.  It’s great to remember those first moments in your career where you know that your voice is worth listening to and that it’s worth speaking up.  We all need to remember those moments and, as we begin to manage others, we must encourage more junior colleagues to find their own voice.

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Being a working parent

Now I’m further into my career, I am juggling young children and working part-time.  I am still very pleased to meet role models in the industry and I want to hear about the routes that other women and other parents have taken.  I realise that I am also a role model for younger women in the profession and it feels important to be visible, to be active, to speak loudly and proudly of being an architect, being a woman and being a parent.  I don’t have all the answers and I am constantly fine-tuning and adjusting the balance that works for me.

What I appreciate most is the value of being in a strong team.  Architecture is never, for anyone, a solo activity: it is a team endeavour and we all make varied and vital contributions.  I believe a key aspect of keeping more women in architecture is promoting strong, flexible and empowering team-working.  We can all encourage this, whatever stage of our career and whatever our gender.

 

This post is an extract from a talk Frances delivered at a Women in Architecture event organised by the Birmingham Architectural Association and RIBA for International Women’s Day 2020.