We have always felt uncomfortable with the label ‘women architects’…
A term which often gets used when discussing the state of the industry. At Darling Associates, we hire the best architects for the job: some of whom are women, some of whom are men.
It would be naïve to claim that we are gender blind but we actively look to the designer first, seeking people who can bring talent, enthusiasm and vision to their role. With this in mind, we recruit, train, reward and promote on merit, ability and performance.
However, as International Women’s Day is upon us, we felt it a good opportunity to celebrate the achievements of the women of Darling Associates.
Our practice has evolved organically to a position where we have a 50:50 gender balance (53% women, 47% men, to be precise). This has not been a conscious decision but one based on the virtues of individuals, rather than the meeting of a required quota, and also reflects the sheer wealth of talent out there across genders.
We are proud to say that there is good representation of women at Darling Associates at all career levels, and from Architectural Assistants to Architects, Associates, Project Directors and Directors, we have inspirational and ambitious women throughout the practice.
Gender disparity in the wider architecture industry is no secret, and whilst there are a clutch of high profile and celebrated female architects that have achieved worldwide renown – Denise Scott Brown, Kazuyo Sejima and the late Zaha Hadid to name a few – the imbalance between men and women in this field remains a highly fought issue.
In 2003 the RIBA undertook a study to address the high volume of women leaving architecture, following recognition that whilst 38% of those studying architecture were women these figures dropped dramatically in practice, with only 13% of working architects being female.
Reasons given by the women who took part in the survey included work/life balance, not family friendly, unfair pay and a sexist environment. If some media reports and gender surveys are to be believed, many of these issues remain in the industry 14 years later.
International Women’s Day conveniently coincides with The Architectural Review’s recent Women in Architecture survey, now it its sixth year. Always insightful, the survey results sadden us and tell of an industry lacking gender parity and still littered unnecessary discrimination that feels somewhat archaic in 2017.
The WIA 2017 survey also suggests that having dependants can hamper – if not halt – career progression, in particular because it restricts the ability to work long and irregular hours, and network at evening events.
At Darling Associates, we encourage experienced and talented women to remain working within the field of architecture, to progress their skills and further establish themselves as industry leaders. We actively support our staff during maternity leave both financially and by maintaining regular communication.
We stay in touch to ensure a smooth transition upon their return to work. Every situation is different and we work with staff to accommodate their particular requirements.
To create a harmonious balance between work and life, there has to be a respect of the employee as an individual and their requirements in and out of work. As a result of this, the quality of work increases and the atmosphere is in the studio is positive.
We see true strength in the balance of diversity in our practice and the Darling Associates team (consisting of 55 people from 20 different nationalities around the world) symbolises our forward-thinking approach.
The AR Women in Architecture Survey may have found that 30% of women would not recommend the profession but we would implore those considering embarking on a career in architecture to take a leap of faith. It is only through increased diversity on all levels that we will be able to draw on a rich mix of backgrounds, insights and cultures to realise greatness through design.
Fundamentally, we wish to be recognised for our architectural design. This pursuit of beautiful, elegant architecture by Darling Associates could not be achieved without the hard work of team of architects who work every day to deliver inspiring places to live, work and relax.