Introduction number of women in the workplace reinforces

Introduction

The
purpose of this research is to analyse and discuss the place of women in
professional roles within, architecture, design and urban planning. It is also
hoped that the findings can be used to develop awareness for policy makers and
practitioners to ensure that professional women are not disadvantaged in built
environment careers. Further, the results can assist in ensuring that the
policies and practices in architecture, planning and design are fully inclusive
of both genders.

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Gender
analysis is vital to the ability of the built environment to respond to the
needs of all who utilise planned spaces. Understanding the role of gender can
be helpful in the process of developing gender sensitive planning strategies.

It is recognised that now, more than ever, in a time when cities are growing
and developing at a tremendous pace, that the identification of gender
equality, along with subsequent strategies, is imperative in accommodating
change in the workplace and social demographics. The increase in the number of
women in the workplace reinforces the urgency of this task.

Women
across the globe are raised to be very conscious of their femininity and
gender, and how fragile they are or should be in a very male dominated world.

While the environment in which one is raised or nurtured may be liberal and
with no gender bias, one still finds certain limitations trickling in from
outside the immediate inner circle of neutrality. Equality and equal
opportunity seem like an illusion, a mirage in a desert that no longer exists!
Many a time’s women downplay their role even as they continue to multitask
efficiently and this humble perception gives their partners, staff, family,
friends or colleagues the false notion that they aren’t contributing in a major
way.

Further
to this, if clients, staff and others too begin to perceive that the woman
partner is no longer a part of the main team, there is little she can do to
restore their faith and confidence. The magic needs to be apparent within the
team and about the team!

In a
much skewed hierarchy dominated by men and their unfortunate biases to their
other-wise equal and sometimes far better partners, there seems to be a lacuna
where women lead or are given the opportunity to lead!

The
topic of gender inequality within the technological world is nothing new or ground-breaking,
but one that runs so deep within social structures that it deserves far more
attention than it receives. The majority of women, not only in the field of
architecture but in other professions too are being pushed into the shadows.

Why women are alone stuck with childcare and forced to give up their
professions when they could easily do both with the right support and
encouragement? Why do women get relegated to the role of secretaries when they
have the potential to be equal partners? Why are students and fresh graduates
disappearing into the confines and isolation of architectural offices, with
mere assistance-ship roles? Why do young professionals disappear into the
hollows of marital dogma and find their architectural forte dying an early
death? Who decides this?

Gender
equality in Architecture, too, has become an increasing concern. Women in
architecture wish to be seen first and foremost as architects (not as women
architects), but they cannot control the gendering gaze of society. A good
architect is not defined by gender or that being a good architect and a woman
isn’t a singularly special occurrence– it’s not just about sitting in an office
with co-workers who respect your abilities regardless of gender. It’s about all
the other aspects of being a practicing architect where challenges present
themselves. Have you ever met a female contractor – what would it be like on a
job site? Would a female architect have to endure (or enjoy) the same
relentless number of fishing and hunting stories that a male hear? Surely the
tenor of the typical job site conversation would be different – not more or
less respectful, just different. It could be the little things like the type of
shoes someone chooses to wear. Does that really matter? Probably not but the
construction worker who has never noticed what shoes his wife is wearing would
notice what is on the feet of a female architect visiting the site. Acting or
dressing ?like a man? — the advice women have received for decades as the means
to blend into the workplace — only entrenches a masculine norm. Yet difference
in itself is not the issue. Indeed, feminism encourages practices that
accommodate differences among people and cultures. But discrimination remains,
if not a universal experience, then surprisingly commonplace. From lower pay
and fewer promotions to stereotypes about their design skills, women architects
continue to struggle to be accepted as equal players. Females believe they
would be paid more if they were male, and also experience sexual discrimination
at work on a weekly or monthly basis.

The
objective is to find out and analyse how this idea of gender in profession
works silently all over the world specific to Architecture. The research
revolves around the aspects of gender biases, opportunities and issues of being
a woman architect. It also measures women to men gap in the domains of practice,
education and research.

Is the
profession really biased towards men? What causes imbalance between the numbers
of girl-students and women-professionals in Architecture? What are the issues,
which force women to leave architecture as profession or prevent them from
shouldering leadership responsibilities? Can these issues be resolved by
examining carefully the reasons? To try to answer all these questions is just a
beginning, the big idea remains to inspire the women architects to keep up the
good work and erase all question marks on their capability and competence. The
possibility of doing so may be by simply being who we are and the way we are.

The hope lies in the gender-sensitization of all the stake-holders and
understanding the fact that best qualifications, however, is one’s own work in
the form of buildings, projects and architectural research. That attracts
attention, arouses expectations and challenges one to do more. May be, then
your gender won’t matter anymore and the word Architect shall be all-inclusive.

How to
begin a practice, how to revive a practice after a sabbatical from childcare,
how to keep abreast of current systems used and innovations in the field, how
to adopt a support team, how to overcome social isolation and postpartum depression
in the wake of getting back to the profession, are questions that many seek
answers to and are eager to adopt. These are challenges no doubt but not
insurmountable.

There
are a number of different frameworks for undertaking gender analysis. This report
outlines the progress of feminism in doing this in architectural design and
planning arenas. It also looks at issues that need to be addressed to undertake
gender analysis for each of the different aspects. The research draws on
concepts from a number of different frameworks, primarily literary works and
past precedents.

Theoretical and conceptual context

In the
recent years, much attention has been paid to the careers of women in the
construction and architecture in particular. Difficulties faced by women
working in the architecture profession have been identified as long working
hours, poor pay, paternalistic culture, sexism and task restriction. These are
all measured against an assumed masculine norm, however, there is little or no
work on what constitutes this norm or how it came to be established, other than
an idea that it is due to the critical mass of men involved in the industry and
related cultural assumptions. It has been argued that what it means to be an
architect has been determined and tightly controlled by male architects and
women are thereby excluded from these ?masculine’ norms. It is important that
the norm of masculinity in the construction industry must be critically
examined. Through the exclusion of women from what is commonly seen as ?manly
technologies’, a vicious cycle has appeared where women are often intimidated
to learn because they are viewed as technologically ignorant, or not capable.

This in turn breeds a further lack of confidence. This common viewpoint where
women are seen as less capable with technology than men, leads one to think of
the gender imbalance within the architectural profession. Although the numbers
of women entering into architectural education are equal or sometimes even more
than their male counterparts, these numbers do not carry through to the
professional workplace. So why is still so difficult for women to break through
a traditionally male dominated field when they are equally as educated and
capable? A large part of the answer could lie with the vicious cycle mentioned
above.

The
findings reported widespread experience of sexual discrimination, sexual
harassment and the gendered nature of architectural salaries, as well as other
data, drawing a dismal picture of women’s professional experiences in the
industry. So the condition raises some questions about the different locations
and uses of this identity category, particularly in relation to its other, the
?architect’. The term ?woman architect’ implicitly genders the term
?architect’, as male. At the same time, the architect’s masculine sex
disappears or is disguised behind the word, architect. It is the woman part of
the phrase that becomes identified with a gender when we apparently introduce
gender into gender neutral architecture by affixing woman to architect. We
reinforce the visible and invisible patterns of gender production by using the
pair architect/woman architect.

The
question is about the challenges of being a woman in this profession. It would
make more sense on one hand to ask these questions to a woman who is in the
field of architecture – but maybe that’s the point. How do men feel about women
in architecture?

For
most part, development of the urban environment over time displayed little
acknowledgment of gender differences. Consequently, with the rise of the modern
workspace and a transformation of work ethics, professionals in the fields of
planning, architecture and urban design did not distinguish gendered needs in
the city. These professionals are the women (and men) who sought to maintain
the balance between the identification of feminine perspectives as a unique and
integral part of planning and development. With the active involvement of women
in bettering the urban fabric, their approach distinguishes issues of gender
from those more generally associated with unequal treatment. Nonetheless, the
early history of these professions embodies one striking similarity that there
is a sexual division of labour, where the primary concerns of women lay in more
socially oriented aspects of the profession. To some extent, it can be argued
that the theoretical context of this has not changed a great deal since the rise
of prominent female roles within these high profile professions. With the
emergence of feminist studies and the growing recognition that women play a
pivotal role in the design and functionality of our cities, social sciences and
scholarship began to identify ways in which the interests of women could be
better addressed. To fully appreciate the context in which gender is applied to
careers in the built environment, the concept of gender, as well as the way in
which gender fits in and affects the urban environment, must be examined.