Five architects came together during IE’s Women’s Week to discuss gender and work-life balance in architecture. Associate Dean of IE’s School of Architecture and Design, Cristina Mateo, moderated the panel and began by sharing a sobering figure: if we continue with the current course of action, gender parity will not be obtained for another 99.5 years.
Head of Business Development at Grupo Azora, Chairwoman at Plan Internacional and Harvard graduate Cristina García Peri, explained that women in architecture and real estate remain largely misrepresented. Not only in terms of management but also in the designs of cities which do not respond to the specific needs – and dangers – that girls and women face. Although 67% of unsafe locations have sexual harassment reports, the reality is that only ⅔ of harassment offenses are reported. This means that in all corners of the world girls and women encounter violence and danger specifically aimed at them (e.g. parking lots). Legislation as it is, is unsuitable and unsustainable for women and minority groups; “if we’re not going to get government participation, we need companies to take responsibility”.
Carmen Panadero, Director of Business Development in Distrito Castellana Norte and Founding President of Women in Real Estate (WIRES), agreed with Cristina’s insights and added that precisely for this reason, cities need to become more women-centric. Cities are where communities are built, and associations are responsible for creating a sense of belonging and identity that women can relate to and, more importantly, feel safe with. “Why aren’t we in the spotlight?” Carmen asked. We need to nudge ourselves, and other women, to go into the spotlight more because it’s the only way we will be included in the designs of our communities. In terms of work-life balance, Carmen, as a mother of five, convincingly argued that it’s purely a matter of co-responsibility at home.
The conversation then veered towards motherhood and career where Professor of Real Estate in MRED, Member of the RICS and WIRES, and renowned Hotel Consultancy Expert, Helena Burstedt, brought forth statistics that shed light on the cultural reasons and social expectations that weigh women in careers down:
- College-educated women make about 90% as much as men at age 25 and about 55% as much at age 45
- The gender wage gap is closing in the EU (5%-10%) but mothers, compared to childfree women, earn 31% less in Ireland, 23% less in Germany and 14% less in the UK
- Promotion to a top job in politics increases the divorce rate of women but not for men, and women who become CEOs have higher divorce rates than men who become CEOs
- Hourly wages for US single men and women without children are at parity
- Because of household expectations; a women’s salary begins to drop not only from the moment she becomes a mother, but from the moment she marries
In light of these findings, Helena’s final advice to the young audience of mostly female architects was to choose one’s spouse and partner well. “Demand him to share the workload and responsibility at home. Explain it to him. Don’t get him to support you in mothering but co-work in parenting. Educate him.”.
Taba Rasti, Co-Director and Partner architect at Foster + Partners, concluded the panel’s discussions reminding us that work-life conciliation in architecture firms will remain a challenge given the culture of long-hours and the non-disciplined nature of architecture work. Nonetheless, representation remains an unsolved issue. It cannot be that 60% of architecture students are female but the majority of employed architects are male. The fact that only 10% of women hold positions in top management and 20% in middle management, is “not only a women’s problem”. Particularly given the amount of money generated in cities by women – there is an untapped potential of wealth generation in cities worldwide that cannot be realized until women and men don’t stand equal, “and this, is everyone’s problem”.