AIA Gender Equity Policy
In December 2013, a major breakthrough for gender equity in the profession of architecture was achieved with the Australian Institute of Architects publishing the organisation’s first Gender Equity Policy.
The disparity between male and female representation within the profession has been well documented and is a growing concern for the Institute as the industry’s representative body.
‘It is with this in mind that I am delighted to share the Institute’s new Gender Equity Policy which will provide the foundation for improving operations within the Institute through our governance, programs and services, employment and leadership. The policy will assist our members and the profession more broadly in employing gender equitable practices in their day to day operations,’ the Institute’s National President, Paul Berkemeier, said.
The policy establishes ten best practice principles designed to maximise fair and equitable access to opportunities and participation for women within the architecture profession:
- Acknowledge the profession’s obligation to accommodate the diverse needs of the community: It is fundamental that architects have the capacity to understand and respond to the diverse needs of clients and the broader community. This can best be achieved when all levels of the profession reflect the diversity of the community, and the Institute will develop and promote strategies to ensure this outcome.
- Recognise and respond effectively to the diversity of members: In all key decisions and activities, the Institute will account for the diverse interests and circumstances of all members, taking particular account of gender, career stage and access to services.
- Incorporate provisions to ensure gender equitable outcomes in all new Institute initiatives: In considering any new or significantly redeveloped programs, services and activities, the Institute will evaluate the program for its contribution to gender equity, as well as other parameters such as financial impact, risk, time and resource requirements.
- Communicate the value of women in leadership roles: The Institute will address the severe gender imbalance in leadership and ownership of architectural practices. It will advocate for the specific benefits of a more gender-balanced approach to design direction, project management and business management.
- Promote equality of employment arrangements: The Institute will adopt, and promote within the profession, employment and recruitment practices that ensure women are recruited, paid and selected for promotion on the same basis as men.
- Support the development of alternative and flexible career pathways within the profession: Understanding that women are less likely to follow traditional, linear career paths, the Institute will identify, validate and offer guidance on flexible approaches to recognition, reward and career progression for women in architecture.
- Develop cross-gender mentorships and network: The Institute will facilitate and encourage informal access by women to the influence and experience of male leaders, networks and mentors in the profession, and by men to female leaders, networks and mentors.
- Educate the profession about the impact of gender stereotypes: Recognising that many contemporary workplaces retain vestiges of systems, processes and cultures that evolved when workplaces were primarily populated by men, the Institute will inform and educate members about the often invisible barriers to equality that result.
- Actively seek input on the needs of women members: The Institute will provide effective and readily accessible channels for members to provide feedback or unsolicited suggestions, ideas, concerns or complaints relating to gender equity.
- Develop and coordinate specific programs to give effect to this Gender Equity Policy: The Institute will establish and maintain an effective forum to create, maintain, review and report on specific programs designed to implement the principles of this policy.
The development of the policy follows the Institute’s involvement since 2011 with the Australian Research Council funded Equity and Diversity in the Australian Architecture Profession: Women, Work and Leadership project, which is led by a collaborative team of eight scholars and five industry partners.
Studies conducted as part of this project have provided qualitative evidence confirming that the participation rate of women in the profession is disproportionately low compared to the number of women graduates in architecture highlighting the specific need to encourage and provide guidelines for the industry to adopt a comprehensive and ethical approach to establishing gender equality across the field.
Immediate Past President and Chair of the Institute’s Gender Equity working group, Shelley Penn noted: ‘Despite similar numbers of female and male graduates for the last three decades, women are less likely to register as architects after graduation (only about 20 per cent of registered architects are women). We only rarely become directors of practices and are also less likely to participate in the profession more widely; for example, by joining the Institute, where less than 30 per cent of members are women.
‘As careers progress, the barriers for women increase, as evidenced by lower numbers in senior positions and higher attrition rates and the need for part time or flexible work hours when juggling career and parenthood affects women most heavily. This policy will go a long way in readdressing these imbalances.’
In addition to approving the policy, National Council endorsed the establishment of a National Committee on Gender Equity. Responsible for ensuring and guiding the implementation of the policy and providing recommendations on additional actions, initiatives and programs, the committee will further drive gender equality within the architecture industry.