Around 1 in 7 women in UK architecture practices has experienced sexual harassment in the workplace in the past year alone, according to the results of the annual Women in Architecture survey conducted by The Architects’ Journal. The poll of nearly 1,500 architects also found that more than half of women have experienced some form of discrimination ranging from bullying to workplace rules that leave them disadvantaged in the same period. The AJ’s survey, which in previous years has largely focused on issues such as pay disparity between men and women, focuses this year more broadly on gender discrimination and sexual harassment—a response to the global shift in awareness organized around movements such as #MeToo and #TimesUp.
Another question from the survey asked respondents whether they had witnessed sexual discrimination against another person in the past 12 months; once again, over half of the women responding said they had, while almost 1 in 3 male respondents to the survey agreed to having witnessed such discrimination.
Qualitative responses to the survey reflected these statistics, with many women reporting that they felt left out of decisions, talked over, or ignored for promotion, while others reported that they had been advised to wear miniskirts to job interviews. One respondent reported being “sexualized openly by a client member, in front of the whole project team—none of whom intervened.”
“There is absolutely no place for sexual discrimination, harassment or bullying in the workplace,” said Michál Cohen of Walters & Cohen. “These are often top-down problems, so asking for them to be reported and dealt with internally is not going to help. Maybe we should be doing more to give women mentors outside their company who they can speak to frankly? […] The RIBA, schools of architecture, and ARB can all do more.”
“One in seven women is unacceptable,” said Sheffield School of Architecture Professor Fionn Stevenson. “It would be good to see a #MeToo campaign specifically concerned with outing practices where this is still occurring, to support the women involved and to encourage those in charge to do something about it.”
Furthermore, the survey found that little progress has been made on issues such as wage disparity, with male respondents reporting higher wages than their female counterparts at every stage of their career, from architectural assistants to firm partners, with the disparity growing at higher levels. Women also reported that having children has a much greater impact on their careers when compared to men, especially earlier in their career: 72% of women reported that having children had a detrimental effect on their career compared to 25% of their male counterparts, while at partner level almost half of women thought having children affected their career negatively, compared to just 3% of men at this level.
Visit The Architects’ Journal to see more results of the survey and further commentary from around the profession.