"Well, my 'usband takes the important decisions, and I take the unimportant ones," came the reply.
"And who decides which is which?"
Well, in my experience, women are quite capable of doing and getting what they want, and if more of them wanted to be architects, I'm sure more would be. The RIBA Journal this month notes that although women make up 38% of those attending schools of architecture, they comprise only 13% of the profession as a whole. I do not really believe that this is as a result of sexual discrimination. I think it's more a question of aptitude and choice.
The fact that half the medical students and 60% of legal trainees are female just shows that they are genetically at least as well if not better suited to life in the professions as their male counterparts. Yet differences exist. There are plenty of women in the City who are investment analysts, but hardly any in corporate finance. Spatial awareness is something more associated with male brains than with female. This is not prejudice to do with the ability to reverse into small spaces. It is biology. Indeed there is a book (Why Men Don't Listen and Women Can't Read Maps) which explains this.
Perhaps women are too sensible to become architects. They’re certainly too sensible to stay married to them
The first practice I worked in was a multidisciplinary design group that was 75% women on the floor and 100% men at boss level. Most of the female designers in this group are now principals in their own design groups (mostly graphic designers) whereas most of the architectural practices that evolved are run by men.
But perhaps women are just too sensible to become architects, in the same way as they seem too sensible to stay married to them – after acting, architecture is the profession with the highest divorce rate. It's obvious why actors have such a hard time of it. Their job constantly puts them in proximity with each other while away filming in exotic locations. After a few months of telling each other how fabulous they are, it's time to ditch the one at home and marry the one asleep in your Winnebago.
Gus Alexander runs his own architectural practice in Clerkenwell, London.