Cathy Stewart: 50/50 recruitment drive.
The battle for more women in architecture begins in schools such as Putney High School for Girls.
The school has just held its annual careers fair to help senior girls decide their choice of career. Representatives from 25 professions, from advertising to design, assembled as if at a farmers’ market, writes Cathy Stewart.
As a director at Pascall & Watson, which signed up to BD’s 50/50 campaign earlier this year, I took my place on the architecture stand. It was an opportunity for me to promote the profession to the next generation of women.
The stand, adorned with a model of our competition entry for the Royal Jet Hangar in Abu Dhabi and 3D cad images of the Superlab at London Metropolitan University, was initially quiet. As interest grew, the common query was the extent to which maths was important — a subject in which the girls seemed to have limited confidence.
Next door the law stall tempted wannabe legal eagles and crowds began to gather. Why should this profession be more desirable? University entrance is extremely competitive, and the training lasts as long as architecture. Yet law, historically male- dominated, has changed to the extent that in 2003 41% of solicitors and 49% of barristers were women. Women account for a lowly 14% of architects.
Architecture needs to learn how other professions have achieved this turnaround. It is losing out on the valuable contribution women can make. And while there remains a misconception that architecture is not a profession for girls, the percentages will not change. It is these young women who need encouragement to consider this creative profession as a viable and credible option. Only then can we look forward to a balance in the future workplace.
8 November 2010