October 4, 2012
A couple of weeks ago, Architect magazine published its September issue, which included a feature article I’d been plugging away at for a long, long time. In “Double Whammy,” I look at the status of women in real-estate development and find a lot of parallels with architecture. Women are entering both architecture and commercial real estate in droves, but they’re still poorly represented at the principal/partner/C-suite level. Getting the chance to work on big projects, and to borrow big money, remains rare for female entrepreneurs in both professions.
I diagnosed a lot of common ailments, but couldn’t find an obvious cure. One change that would be helpful would be for larger architecture and CRE firms to aggressively recruit and promote talented, ambitious women into their executive ranks. Women can’t launch their own firms without experience working in established firms at this level. Women need better access to capital, too, without a doubt.
Even after 15 great interviews, I’m still not sure why women architects have become well-known designers in the cultural and educational spheres (think of Marion Weiss or Julie Snow), but not the commercial world. So what, some might say — but to me it’s a problem, the glass box as glass ceiling.
Whether it’s due to the clients (developers) being almost all men, or the bias that steers women architects into interiors and away from curtain wall assemblies, or female attrition from corporate design firms — I find it troubling. For one thing, women architects are missing out on some incredible PR, the kind that comes from building really tall (or big). Is it any wonder that Jeanne Gang won a MacArthur grant after the Aqua opened?
Here’s me saying the same thing (more or less) on camera for Architect.