Women in Architecture (“Because I am a woman, I must make unusual efforts to succeed. If I fail, no one will say, “She doesn’t have what it takes.” They will say, “Women don’t have what it takes.” – Clare Boothe Luce)
About a month ago, I sat down with Rebecca of the Architects’ Take to discuss what it is like being a woman in a male-dominated profession. I’ve pasted one of my favorite parts below and you can find the full interview is here.
For example, in the Architect’s Journal study about women in architecture, there was a woman who commented that Zaha Hadid’s success has resulted in her having no family life. My first reaction was “Who cares? And how is that relevant to her body of work as an architect?” Why is a family life something a successful woman has to give up? It might have never been on Zaha’s radar. How presumptuous it is for anyone to assume that Zaha is not perfectly happy with the choices she has made, both professionally and personally. Besides, just because you aren’t married doesn’t mean you are relegated to a life of spinsterhood. I remember the late 80s when that study came out saying that women over 35 were more likely to be abducted by terrorists than to get married.
Zaha could have had 7 lovers, one for every day of the week for all we know!
We – and women particularly – should all be proud of Zaha. She is a resounding success and an extraordinary architect. And frankly, I don’t hear the same criticism being applied to Rem Koolhaas. A few years ago, I remember a piece on him in the New York Times. And they were just flippantly describing his two families – one with his wife and the other with his mistress. I mean, he clearly had enough time on his hands. He had it all, and then some.
Women have a harder time than men in architecture, plain and simple. And it gets discouraging. You can get beaten down. It can be easier to find something else to do instead. I was a single mom at the same time that I had a firm, and it wasn’t easy. I didn’t have a life partner to support me; I had to work. I had some more flexibility, because it was my own firm, so I could incorporate my daughter into my work schedule. She would come to the office after school and it was fine. Or I didn’t have to ask permission to go to parent-teacher conferences. But I was the boss, and even when I could leave for an hour on a Wednesday to see her play basketball, I still had to land new jobs, make payroll, attend meetings, serve on architectural juries, and pay the rent.