Closing the architecture leadership gender gap

Submitted by vcb_prod on Tue, 06/18/2019 - 17:11
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She got a\nswift congratulations, but then something much worse. She was told that for the\nsake of continuity and service to clients, she\u2019d be removed from all of her\nprojects, lest they be inconvenienced by her maternity leave. De Angel had been\npracticing for nearly a decade, and had no desire, or reason, to be relegated\nto LEED administration duties. She went to HR. But her boss came back enraged, furtively\nspeaking in Spanish (de Angel is a native speaker). \u201cHow dare you go to HR!\u201d "]]],[1,"p",[[0,[],0,"\u201cHe stuck to his word and did just what he said,\u201d says de Angel. She\nspent her days running checklists, documenting credits, and being ruinously\nunhappy. She started looking for other jobs. "]]],[1,"p",[[0,[],0,"\u201cIt made me feel penalized, as if my brain contributions were\ndismissed due to the physical changes in my body,\u201d she says. \u201cIt made me\nquestion if I could have a career and a family.\u201d "]]],[1,"p",[[0,[],0,"The sexist discrimination De Angel faced was\nresolved in time. She was six and a half months pregnant when "],[0,[0],1,"P"],[0,[1],1,"erki"],[0,[0],1,"ns + Will\u2019s\nBoston"],[0,[],0," office offered her a job. She initially declined, and felt\nlike she\u2019d be taking too much time for her maternity leave with only a few\nmonths at the new firm. She took a nine-month unpaid leave, and stayed in touch\nwith Perkins + Will. She joined the firm before her daughter\u2019s first birthday. Today\nshe\u2019s a principal there. "]]],[1,"p",[[0,[],0,"De Angel\u2019s "],[0,[2],1,"ord"],[0,[3],1,"eal"],[0,[],0," illustrates the\ncareer and family crunch that envelops women at the mid-point of their\narchitecture careers, as they struggle to become principals and partners in a\nmale-dominated field that often comes with punishing hours and expectations of\nabsolute commitment. Apart from changing design culture to encourage women to\nstay in architecture for any length of time, there\u2019s a unique set of barriers\nthat inhibit women from ascending to its highest levels. "]]],[1,"p",[[0,[],0,"According to the 2018 AIA firm survey, the profession sees less\ngender parity the higher up the ranks one ascends. Nearly 20 percent of respondents\nto the 2018 "],[0,[4],1,"Equity by Design\n"],[0,[5],1,"survey "],[0,[],0,"report that their firm leadership is all male. Half say it\u2019s\nmostly male. There have been strong increases in female representation at the principal\nand partner level recently, but parity is still far away. Women increased from\n11 percent of firm leaders in 2008 to 29 percent in 2017, the biggest jump of\nany rank. "]]],[1,"h3",[[0,[6],1,"Starting a firm yields\nleadership opportunities, flexibility"]]],[1,"p",[[0,[],0,"Patricia Saldana Natke, FAIA, founded her own Chicago firm, "],[0,[7],1,"UrbanWorks"],[0,[],0,",\n25 years ago, subverting this trend. She says that decisions on whether to get\nmarried or start a family often happen at the critical mid-point of an\narchitect\u2019s career in their mid-20s to 30s, and this period defines \u201cwhich\ntrack you\u2019re on and how you\u2019re going to compete.\u201d Saldana Natke started her firm\nfirst, and then had kids. \u201cI was able to set my own flexibility, and that\nreally makes a huge difference.\u201d Her experience is borne out by data from the\nEquity by Design survey, which revealed that female sole proprietors were much\nmore likely to be mothers than women working at firms. "]]],[1,"p",[[0,[],0,"This survey also showed that more male architects are\nparents than women, which may indicate steady attrition for women who become\nmothers. Of all architects that are parents, 44 percent of women are primary caregivers,\nwhile only 5 percent of men call themselves primary caregivers. Women with a secondary\ncaregiving role don\u2019t get the same bump in salary that men who are secondary caregivers\nget, disincentivizing women from doing less care and working more. (For\nexample, the survey indicates that amongst architects with 20 to 25 years\u2019 experience, men who are secondary\ncaregivers make a bit more than $140,00 per year; women secondary caregivers\nmake just over $120,000.)"]]],[1,"p",[[0,[],0,"This sexist perception of childcare illustrates just one of\nthe ways that gender parity in architecture leadership is conflated with\nbroader patriarchal social constructs. Once they\u2019re born, taking care of kids\nhas nothing to do with one\u2019s gender, despite the enforcement patriarchal\nsystems push onto women through not accommodating flexible parenting schedules\n(which hurts fathers as well as mothers), scheduling events in the evening when\nfamily time is critical, allowing gendered pay gaps that devalue the labor of\nwomen, and any other number of subtly\u2014or outright\u2014discriminatory practices that\npush women out of professional contexts. "]]],[1,"p",[[0,[],0,"Because of the consciousness-raising older generations have\ndone around gender as well as race (Natke and De Angel are women of color,\nnavigating an additional universe of bias), women joining the profession are\nmore prepared to understand and confront such gender biases and structural\ndisadvantages at architecture firms. In many ways, their primary challenge will\nbe fighting these battles in a much more public and less deferent way, while\nstill navigating their way through male-dominated power structures on their way\nto becoming leaders. "]]],[1,"h3",[[0,[6],1,"Challenging and\novercoming power structures "]]],[1,"p",[[0,[],0,"There are plenty of reasonable suggestions for what women\nand other minorities can do to overcome barriers\nto leadership. But most importantly, there\u2019s the recognition that men are in\ncontrol of the firms that perpetuate these unfair systems, and the onus is on\nthem to change. \u201cThat really is the crux\nof the problem,\u201d says Natke. \u201c[It\u2019s] making sure women and architects of color\naren\u2019t just speaking to each other. It\u2019s about creating overall change.\u201d "]]],[1,"blockquote",[[0,[],0,"\u0022[It\u2019s] making sure women and architects of color\naren\u2019t just speaking to each other. It\u2019s about creating overall change.\u201d -Patricia Saldana Natke, FAIA"]]],[1,"p",[[0,[],0,"A bit more specifically, what\u2019s needed is an overhaul of\noffice policies. With the "],[0,[8],1,"AIA Chic"],[0,[9],1,"ago "],[0,[],0,"Diversity Roundtable,\n Natke is assembling a self-assessment\ntool for firms, evaluating office policies and hiring practices so that firm\nleaders can critically evaluate how their operations might perpetuate\ninequality. This could give principals concrete metrics and schedules to\nadvance diversity goals, like eliminating pay gaps between men and women, that\nare persistent at all levels. She\u2019s planning on the assessment tool being\ncomplete by the end of the year. "]]],[1,"p",[[0,[],0,"Natke says that what\u2019s likely to be uncovered here is not so\nmuch explicitly and self-consciously sexist behavior, but the institutional\nghosts of these practices, simply never confronted. The goal is to \u201cbreak the\ncycle of going to the person that\u2019s most similar to yourself,\u201d she says."]]],[1,"p",[[0,[],0,"And while the onus of change is on men, there are ways women\ncan leverage the progress forged by people like Natke. From the outset, she says,\nbe \u201cvery direct and honest as to what [your] goals are.\u201d Tell leaders up front:\n\u201cI\u2019m committed [to] this firm. In 5-7 years, I hope to be [at] a principal\nlevel. What do I need to do to get there?\u201d "]]],[1,"p",[[0,[],0,"Self-promotion from women is often viewed differently (and\nnegatively) than when it comes from men, but Lynne\nSorkin, AIA, a director at "],[0,[10],1,"bKL architect"],[0,[11],1,"ure"],[0,[],0," in Chicago,\nsays it\u2019s key. \u201cYou have to sell your personal achievements so that people are\naware of what you could do next,\u201d she says."]]],[1,"p",[[0,[],0,"In particular, Jackie Koo, AIA, founder of "],[0,[12],1,"Koo Architecture"],[0,[],0,"\nin Chicago (and also a woman of color), says it\u2019s important for women to get licensed.\n\u201cIf you don\u2019t get licensed and have that credential after your name, people can\nthink of you as \u2018less-than\u2019 much more easily,\u201d she says. Unfairly, women need\nthis official validation more than men in order to compete with them. The push\ntowards licensure often happens at the mid-point of a women\u2019s career, as she\nmight be considering starting a family, resulting in a time squeeze from both\nends of the professional and domestic spectrum. And sure enough, the Equity by Design\nsurvey reported that women are more likely than men to report having made\npersonal sacrifices to deal with long work hours, and more women say their\nphysical and mental health has suffered due to work-life imbalances. "]]],[1,"p",[[0,[],0,"Sorkin says one strategy that can gain women more power and\nautonomy is to get involved in business development. \u201cWhen you\u2019re able to bring\nin work,\u201d she says, \u201cit sets you up in a good position to also be leading the\nprojects.\u201d "]]],[1,"p",[[0,[],0,"Certainly, there\u2019s a moral and ethical responsibility to\nmake sure different groups of individuals have an equal opportunity for success\nin a given institution, but there\u2019s also a case to be made for gender diversity\nbased on business utility. Most broadly, as a service profession, architects do\ntheir best work when they represent the society they serve, and Saldana Natke\nsays they have more female clients than ever, both private and public."]]],[1,"h3",[[0,[6],1,"Diversity breeds\nsuccess"]]],[1,"p",[[0,[],0,"\u201cA diverse group of people is a resilient strategy,\u201d says de\nAngel. With a diverse pool of talent, designers can shift strategies and\nsectors at will. De Angel designs higher education student centers and\nresidence halls, and her clients want to see the diversity of the student body\nin their design teams. "]]],[1,"p",[[0,[],0,"She has focused her time specifically on helping women in\nthe middle of their careers climb the ladder with the "],[0,[13],1,"Boston Society of Archite"],[0,[14],1,"cts\u2019\n"],[0,[],0,"Mid-Career Mentorship Program. An outgrowth of the BSA\u2019s Women\u2019s\nPrincipals group, it\u2019s now in its second year of pairing up mid-career women\nwith women principals. Earlier in her career, Natke spent a bit less\nthan five years working for "],[0,[15],1,"Carol Ross Ba"],[0,[16],1,"rney,"],[0,[],0," a titan of Chicago\narchitecture, where she had the benefit of a female mentor with a strong\nregional reputation. \u201cThat was a turning point in seeing that I could have my\nown firm,\u201d says Natke. \u201cYou can\u2019t be what you can\u2019t see.\u201d"]]],[1,"p",[[0,[],0,"Those are relationships Lori Krejci, AIA, could have used. "]]],[1,"p",[[0,[],0,"She founded her own\nfirm, "],[0,[17],1,"avant\narchitects"],[0,[],0," in Omaha, after continued frustration from working for\nmen. Krejci always knew she wanted to be an architect;\nshe started working at architecture firms when she was 16. One early boss asked\nher to cut her hair because, \u201cYou\u2019re petite, you\u2019re young, you want people\nlistening to you, not looking at you. I\u2019m not telling you to cut your hair, but\nit might be a good idea,\u201d says Krejci.\nAnother had her (and only her, the only female architect in the office) cover the\nreceptionist\u2019s lunch break, and also had her pick interior colors and fabrics,\nsomething she had no specialized training or interest in, \u201cbecause you\u2019re a\nwoman,\u201d she says. She never got a raise, and was sure she wasn\u2019t being taken\nseriously. "]]],[1,"p",[[0,[],0,"Krejci left a \u201cmad bohemian,\u201d she says, determined to forge\nher own creative path and found her own firm. She was in her late 20s when\navant opened up shop. It was 1988, and it was the first woman-owned firm in the\nstate of Nebraska. "]]],[1,"p",[[0,[],0,"Her male bosses\u2019 belittling made her second guess herself,\nunware that they were reacting to her gender, not her talent, until it was\nexplicitly pointed out. \u201cI thought, \u2018What is wrong with me? Maybe I need to\nwork harder? I must not be as good as the boys,\u2019\u201d she says. "]]],[1,"p",[[0,[],0,"But regardless of who\u2019s getting the credit, architecture is\nalmost never the result of a single person, and properly recognizing this\ndynamic holds the potential to sweep away any number of explicitly and\nimplicitly discriminatory practices. \u201cEverybody that works on large-scale projects\nreally understands that it takes a whole team of people to do [them],\u201d says Koo.\nThis shift will best be realized not by simply inserting women into the coveted\nand unquestioned leadership roles that men had horded, but instead by\ncollaborating across gender, race, sexual orientation, and more, in a way that\ndoesn\u2019t offer any one group or identity leverage over any other."]]],[1,"p",[[0,[18],1,"Zach Mortice is a Chicago-based design journalist, and former editor at\nAIA, who focuses on landscape architecture and architecture."]]],[1,"p",[[0,[19],0,"For more stories like these, join us for the "],[0,[20],1,"Women\u0027s Leadership Summit"],[0,[],0," this September. Also, learn more from the "],[0,[21],1,"AIA Guides for Equitable Practice, "],[0,[],1,"which provide real-world-derived best practices for fostering equitable and inclusive workplaces. "]]],[1,"p",[[0,[],0,"\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n"]]]]}
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How women are overcoming a mid-career squeeze—and traditional power structures—that inhibit their rise to firm leadership.
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Patricia Saldana Natke, AIA, founding partner of UrbanWorks, LTD discusses a project with colleagues .
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