RIBA president-elect George Ferguson has promised to crack down on gender discrimination in the architecture profession after research showed it was driving women away from the industry
Ferguson said: "Addressing the issue of diversity in the profession is one of my priorities. There is no excuse for poor employment practice within the industry."

The research, commissioned by the RIBA and compiled by the University of the West of England, revealed that some firms were responsible for carrying out illegal employment procedures.

One female architect reported that she was forced to reapply for her job after she returned from maternity leave. This is illegal under employment law.

The names of the practices were not revealed.

The RIBA research, which lasted for six months, highlighted cases of pay discrepancies between men and women. Some women were paid less than the minimum wage during their year-out placement after Part 1 training.

Reporting practices is the ultimate weapon if firms are breaking the rules

George Ferguson, RIBA president-elect

Ferguson said practices that breached employment law would face investigation by the RIBA's disciplinary committee.

He said: "I am all for breaking down this macho culture. Reporting practices is the ultimate weapon if we find firms are breaking the rules."

RIBA statistics last year showed that the proportion of women in the industry fell to a 10-year low of 11%. The number of women architecture students also dropped to 31% in 2002, a fall of three percentage points on the previous year.

Ferguson said that he exepcted change to be slow. He said: "To move the percentages will take time – this research sows the seed that could implement real change in 10 years.