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Gender equity in architecture is moving but has a way to go

It’s only anecdotal evidence but here it is: one man applying for a job in an architectural studio was rejected because his wife might become pregnant. How’s that for an unintended consequence? The danger of course is that he might be called up for paternity duties. Or want to perform them. 

According to Justine Clark architectural writer and critic who co-founded the women in architecture advocacy Parlour, moves towards gender equity in the design profession are slow but positive.

Clark says, “There are some improvements and quite a lot of practices trying to take things more seriously and put in place more processes.”

Some of the recent changes are greater numbers of women who are registered as architects (a 16 per cent jump between 2012 and 2014 compared with a 4 per cent increase for men.

Clark was “chief investigator” in a group working on a research project, Equity and Diversity in the Australian Architecture profession that completed in 2014. A new report completed but not yet released will be published by Parlour and authored by Gill Matthewson.

“There is some good news. Obviously, there is still a huge amount to do,” Clark says.

There is “certainly heightened awareness” of gender issues after the huge international coverage of the #Metoo movement, but Clark is not sure how much impact it has yet had in Australia. Resources for women are available on the Parlour website and through The Association of Consulting Architects, she says.

“Yes, things are moving fast, there are serious workplace and cultural changes (including the Male Champions of Change) so the data suggests some improvement but putting equity policies and procedures in place is just the start.”

One company that said it was moving to stronger gender parity in its studio is BVN, which recently announced that out 19 new appointments eight have been females.

The most senior appointment went to Laurie Aznavoorian, who was promoted from senior workplace strategist to senior practice director after less than two years with the company.

Aznavoorian is well known in her field. She was previously with DEGW and with Geyer where she worked for more than 10 years, most recently as workplace sector leader.

Among the appointments were five new practice directors – Kirstie Irwin, Lucas Leo, Tim Crawshaw, Conor Larkins and Paul Quang.

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