WIA is a part of the Architects For Change Forum at the RIBA and was set up last July. A group was needed that would provide support for women architects who felt they were experiencing inequality at work, such as pay inequality or sexual harassment, and women who felt they were foregoing promotions because of family commitments. We run seminars and hold networking lunches.
What are WIA's aims?
To improve the working conditions of women architects, to make the profession more accessible to women and promote female architects in the public domain. The group aims to triple the number of practising women architects, currently just 13% of the profession, in the next few years. Women think differently from men and can bring a feminine perspective to the design of schools and homes. And a balanced workforce is usually a happier one.
How can these aims be achieved?
Members of WIA are visiting secondary schools and encouraging girls to consider architecture as a creative and inspirational career. The group would like to see every female architect acting as a mentor to girls at their local school and providing them with work experience.
WIA is also encouraging female architectural students to complete their university courses. Women make up just 35% of Part I and Part 2 students. The group is campaigning for more universities to create incentives for women to complete their studies, such as free or sponsored courses for the final two years.
Architecture is a career for life: a career break should not send us back to the kitchen sink forever
Women in professional practice need more support. Architecture is a career for life: a career break should not send us back to the kitchen sink forever. Often childcare costs are the biggest disincentive to returning to work. Continuing professional development courses aimed at women on career breaks, which could be provided by the RIBA and ARB, would help ensure that women did return to work. WIA is also promoting job sharing, part-time work and family friendly working practices.
Have you ever experienced sexual discrimination?
I haven't directly experienced sexual discrimination, but I am troubled by the lack of women in senior roles in the big London practices. Yes, some women take time out to have children, but many return after a couple of years, so this alone does not explain the lack of women at the top. I have worked for large practices in the capital, but I decided to set up my own business so that I could create my own opportunities.
Angela Brady is a partner in private practice at Brady + Mallalieu based in north London. For more information on WIA contact Angela Brady on 020-8880 1544 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.