The recent Washington Post article "Five facts about professional artists in the United States" examines recent data from the National Endowment for the Arts about the state of the arts in the U.S. Almost as a footnote, writer Katherine Boyle points out that "Female architects still have a ways to go." She cites NEA data: that women account for 1 in 4 architects in the U.S.
Oddly, D.C. is faring worse in terms of gender equity than any other major market: under 20 percent of architects and just over 44 percent of designers there are women. What accounts for these percentages? This is odd in a city where artists, including designers and architects, are paid more than anywhere in the country. Perhaps the salaries trend higher because a smaller percentage of women is factored in?
I dug a little deeper, as I was curious that the NEA includes architects and designers under their umbrella of "Arts." In data published on the NEA website, I noticed that in many creative fields, men are actually going to have to "step up." According to the U.S. Census Bureau's Equal Employment Opportunity data, nationwide women account for 54% of designers and 56.8% of writers.
While not suggesting answers for how to improve the gender equity in architecture, the data do point out the continuing importance of architecture's "lean-in" movement. Whether in direct response to the study or not, the NEA has been funding initiatives that seek to assist architecture to shatter its ceilings: in 2012, it awarded the Beverly Willis Architecture Foundation an Art Works grant to support Women of 20th-Century American Architecture, a free, publicly accessible digital archive.
On a related note, this coming year at the GSD, Women in Design, a student-guided group, is continuing to catalyze dialogues in order to create a design profession that is more diverse, inclusive and collaborative – let's bust through the ceilings. In March 2013 WID launched a petition to seek recognition for Denise Scott Brown for her role in the work deserving of the 1991 Pritzker Prize. The Loeb Fellowship in tandem hosted its annual lecture, which will go down in history for setting the facts straight: Cathleen McGuigan (LF 1993) delivered "Women and the Changing World of Architecture."
The Pritzker petition has sparked historic rule changes by the AIA for awarding the AIA Gold Medal, to enable the granting of the award to partners, an explicit reply to the changing way that architecture is practiced and recognized.
Read more about the AIA Gold Medal rule change in Architectural Record.
View the video of Cathleen McGuigan on "Women and the Changing World of Architecture"
Learn more about the Women of 20th-Century American Architecture archive.