The Gender Pay Gap: How Does it Affect Female Architects?

ishika kapoor

8 mins read

July 03

Woman working on a laptop while sitting on a blue chair
Hey! Welcome to the year 1921. Oh no! Wait, it is 2021? Then why are we still discussing this topic?? In the past century, humans have evolved and progressed. The women have empowered their rights and are independent. Yet women all over the world are facing a huge GENDER PAY GAP!

How often do you come across female designers and architects in leadership positions at workplaces? From a messed-up work-life balance to sexism, women have to face a lot of challenges. There is an ideology that the credibility of a married woman or a working mother is less, as she has to shift her focus from work and balance her family. That leads to discrimination against gender diversity in design fields. No matter how well she can juggle between her job and family, it is still an ‘either-or’ situation rather than an ‘and’ situation.

Fact: The ratio of males to females in a leadership position at architecture firms is just 11%. SHOCKING right! The women are not just struggling to reach the top, but at a lower job profile, females are discriminated against and are deprived of bigger opportunities to showcase their full potential.

Chart showing percent of acceptance for women as an architect


In comparison to a male counterpart, a female has to work thrice the amount of her male colleague to get recognition. For the same amount of work, there is a wide income gap. It is not just a problem of small unpopular firms but is also noticed among the high-end firms like Norman Foster+ Partners.

But what is the reason for this gap??

As a woman in architecture, you’re always an outsider. It’s okay, I like being on the edge.

- Zaha Hadid told the Financial Times in 2015

Except that’s NOT OK! So, to provide a cure, we need to find the disease. Let’s jump into some of the misconceptions about why women struggle with equal pay and opportunities in the design field.

Chart showing percentage of discrimination faced against women


1. Oh Honey! Site Work is a ‘Man’s Job’

There are stereotypes that women are weaker and incapable of on-site duty. In actuality, an architect just has to supervise and check that the work is being carried out as per the specifications. There is no use of physical strength. Thus, calling site work a man’s job is totally invalid. Due to this, women are stuck at desk jobs, and hence, their professional growth hinders in design and architecture firms.

2. The great designers from the past - But where are the women?

Take a moment and think. Remember learning about the works of famous designers like Frank Gehry, Mies Van Der Rohe, Le Corbusier, and Frank Lloyd Wright? But has your school ever discussed the great works of some of the leading female architects like Zaha Hadid, Kazuyo Sejima, Anupama Kundoo, and Chitra Vishwanath? The answer to this is most probably a no.

Well, learning doesn’t end at school. Read about these 10 celebrated female designers and get inspired!

3. Lack of Female Mentorship

Due to the lower rate of female leaders to guide and mentor young professionals, the newcomer female designer struggles. If there have been more inspirational ladies in the higher end, other upcoming females would get optimistic. The aspiring females would feel that all the struggle was worth it!

4. Career and Family - a Societal Limbo

The real reason for women to take a step back from work is societal pressure. The ideology of the society for women is to take care of the family rather than it being the job of both men and women. This leads to employers' dispositions towards women. They assume that women will leave or put in lesser time and effort. These are gender roles that are placed above and beyond the wishes of the women themselves.

What is the scenario in India?

Percentage of male and female architects in India in the year 2020


The ratio of female to male students in the design school is 50:50. But after leaving the school, this ratio disrupts. With the challenges faced by women in design and architecture firms, they tend to abandon the practice. On the brighter side, in India, according to the Council of Architecture, India, the ratio of practicing female architects is more than 47% in comparison to 34% in the previous decade.

Placement of women architects in India in the year 2020


But to break all these stereotypes, India has offered the world some of the greatest female designers. Their struggles to overcome and challenge the male-dominant industry have inspired millions of budding designers.

What are firms doing about this?

Pay-scale difference between women and me in architecture firms


In the UK, the government asked all the organizations with a staff capacity above 250 to provide the gender pay gap data annually. This small initiative has brought to the world's notice the disparity in the income between male and female employees. This showcased the condition of some of the leading architectural firms like Zaha Hadid Architects, HawkinsBrown, Foster+ Partners, and Allies & Morgan.

But some firms in the world have been able to achieve zero gender pay gap. Morphogenesis in India and Studio Gang in the USA are some firms with income equality.

In 2019, Sonali Rastogi and her partner Manit Rastogi, founder of Morphogenesis, declared the firm to be a 'gender-positive pay gap'. They adopted a scheme known as FLEX that gave extended maternity leave and financial assistance for new parents, with flexible working arrangements for new mothers. 'We are committed to closing the gender gap and ensuring diversity and inclusion at all levels in place to ensure women continue their professional careers.'

Similar to Morphogenesis, Studio Gang, founded by Jeanne Gang, addressed the gender pay gap and tried to resolve the differences through pay rise. She advises that pay is a number, and the inequality can be sorted in a very tangible way. That will ensure a better environment for creativity to flourish.

Well, doing an internship at architecture firms like these would be ideal, wouldn’t it? Check out: 5 Best Architecture Firms in Asia to Intern With.

Other than firms, sites like Dezeen have started an initiative called Move the Needle, which helps architecture and design firms to assess the gender pay in their company.

Small steps like these will make the world more cautious and help them prevent indifference in the workplace. There is still a long way ahead to achieving a gender-neutral pay gap. We, both male and female designers and architects, need to collaborate and work together to achieve the goal of closing the income gap in design and architecture firms.

Different women working together to fight for their rights


We will reach the goal, slowly but surely!

Till then stay tuned to Novatr’s Learning Hub for more insightful blogs on architecture and design careers!

Take your architecture career up a notch by upskilling in the most in-demand industry skills. Check out our flagship program - BIM Professional Course and get industry-ready today!

Join 100,000 designers who read us every month

Your next chapter in AEC begins with Novatr!

Ready to skyrocket your career?

As you would have gathered, we are here to help you take the industry by storm with advanced, tech-first skills.

Privacy Policy

Terms of Use

©2023 Oneistox India Pvt. Ltd.
©2023 Oneistox India Pvt. Ltd. All Rights Reserved