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A Shift in Foundations – Women at Quadrangle

Woman at Quadrangle
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Gender disparity in technical and scientific professions is unfortunately nothing new. That it is finally being considered emblematic of a larger problem and named more aptly a crisis, is.

Of the registered architects in Canada, only 20% of them are women. This number reflects as well in architectural-based organizations, such as the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada, a national organization that counts only 1,138 of its registered 4,860 members as women. The picture painted locally isn’t any better. In Ontario, as of 2016, 47% of intern architects are women. This number drops to 37.5% for newly licensed female architects and takes another 12% hit to land at 25% for the final percentage of practicing, female architects in Ontario.

Woman at Quadrangle

The reasons for this type of gender drain are varied, but a major deterrent is the perceived barrier of the profession as still being considered primarily male—obviously a fact reiterated in the stats—a “boys club” influenced by the top down from its older, whiter gatekeepers and the influence of macho culture with developers and on project sites. That so many women pursue an education in architecture and later follow through into employment as intern architects, only to drop out, speaks volumes about where ingrained prejudices are initially felt. If the job you want doesn’t seem to want to include you, or value you, do you really continue to consider it as a rewarding career, let alone a fulfilling, creative outlet?

Some other reasons many women drop out of the profession are the reality of the wage gap between men and women for hours worked, and that the hours architects were traditionally expected to keep don’t allow much room for other ambitions a woman might have, such as starting a family. Oftentimes the time spent away on maternity leave represents more than a monetary loss, but losing out on experience and perceived contributions to a firm by those leading it.

Woman at Quadrangle

A lot needs to be done—a lot—to change things within the industry, starting at the very minimum of gender wage equality. So while there is room for improvement in even the most progressive of architecture firms, I’m proud to say that at Quadrangle, we strive to be continually mindful of disparities women in the industry face, and work to change things for the better within our studio.

In terms of hiring and retaining talent within our studio, women are represented as making up 44% of the staff at Quadrangle. There’s near parity in studio Associates (43%), complete gender parity in Senior Associates (50%), and “getting there” parity within the Principals group (33%)—but it is always important to have areas in which to focus, work on, and do better in.

Gender Diversity
Gender Diversity at Quadrangle - January 2017

Breaking this down further, women at Quadrangle currently boast the following numbers: three Principals, four Senior Associates, six Associates and sixty staff whose roles include senior, intermediate and junior architects, senior to junior technologists, senior to junior interior designers, marketing, business development, design, finance, and administration. Witnessing the commitment to gender equality within our studio and being provided with equal opportunities on projects throughout my entire career at Quadrangle has always given me a strong sense of support and autonomy. It has also enabled me to encourage other women to take on roles in some of the most male-dominated phases of projects, such as contract administration during construction. 

At the most simplified level, architecture directly influences the cities in which we live. If the buildings in them, and the larger plans for the places we call home are primarily designed by men, we can rightly assume that they can’t and won’t represent or respond to the needs of everyone inhabiting them. To implement change on so large a scale, there has to be a shift that starts in the foundations of where these plans get made.

Andrea Spencer