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Must Do Better: Improving Gender Diversity in Architecture

As well as the Women in construction Summit (excellent!) and the RIBA/NAWIC She Draws: She Builds event (both fantastic and I hope will be become yearly events), I also attended the RIBA/Dezeen evening talk/workshop “Must Do Better: Improving Gender Diversity in Architecture”. If you haven’t seen the Dezeen report revealing the lack of gender diversity in the top 100 architectural firms then read it HERE. The evening included talks from practices that were already addressing gender imbalance (White Arkitekter, Scott Brownrigg, Jane Duncan Architects) plus business exemplars and stats linking diversity and financial performance from McKinsey & Company.

I facilitated a table for the workshop and found amongst our group of ten, that half were from larger (200+ people firms) and half were from smaller (5-10 people firms). The attendees from the larger companies had a better grasp of what Diversity and Inclusion actually meant. The smaller firms were still grasping the concepts – especially around the definition of inclusion – and had yet to start discussions within the firm. I came out feeling that we need to address how to be inclusive in a more practical and attainable manner.

Tips to leave you with:
• Jane Duncan: Give your staff assertiveness training. This leads to decent fees, knowing your blue, more resources, better pay and no long hours!
• McKinsey: Make the case in business terms – what aspects will improve? Help (the men) buy in.
• Alexandra Hagen, White Arkitekter: Award women equal challenges.
• Helen Taylor, Scott Brownrigg: Invest in training – business / technical and mentoring. Every month they invite a young member of staff into the Directors meeting so that they can see what goes on.

On the whole it what the importance of family that attendees felt was the top priority for the RIBA to address. The cost of childcare was prohibitive and the cultures around flexible working and parental needs were paramount. As a result RIBA will endeavour to make the cost of childcare a priority and to find out more diversity relevant information with the Benchmarking survey.

Like many of you, I believe that the talks over #IWD2018 are really just the beginning and I hope that a lot more actions, pledges, discussions, polices and targets will emerge in the coming months.

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