Women in Architecture
In a historic event, two Dublin-based architects Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara from Grafton Architects were awarded the Pritzker Architecture Prize. From a world where the architect’s husbands were credited for their designs, we have evolved into a time where women’s contribution to architecture is finally being recognized in the mainstream. This Women’s Day, we speak to three architects who share their insights.
The ratio between men and women graduates in India stands in favor of women, with medium-to-high women at the workplace. However, large-scale projects with sizeable lifespans do see constant gender bias.
— Ar. Ishvinder Kaur, Founding Principal and Creative Director, ivpartners, Gurgaon
When I began, it was largely a male-dominated industry but the scenario has changed extensively. Site or project meetings were usually conducted by men, which led to gender bias. However, women are today professionally successful as they take up the onus of projects and enterprise directly across the sector.
Women architects are equally competent in delivering professional projects. Clients, too, look for the best design solutions irrespective of gender with different specialized consultants taking over different facets of the project. The sourcing industry, in general, is welcoming to women, with people in the market more focused on business prospects. Also, it helps that so many women work in different sectors in design. The ratio between men and women graduates in India stands in favor of women, with medium-to-high women at the workplace.
Though things have changed in the metropolitan areas, large-scale projects with sizeable lifespans do see constant gender bias. Thus, there is still a glass ceiling that needs to be broken through.
I firmly believe that women have a contrasting sentiment for architecture than men do.
— Des. Sujata Chitalwala, Principal Designer, Designers Group, Mumbai
Women architects are still invisible in the male-dominated architectural world, as well as the construction business. Women are excellent negotiators as they develop an outcome, but men and women working together truly alleviate the architectural domain. In the end, our objective as architects is to design buildings that inspire generations to come, and gender bias should not be a hindrance at all.
At Designers Group, we believe in a team effort that reflects in the way we gather and discuss projects at the conference. Each person’s opinion is sought before finalizing an initiative or deal, with complete freedom to thought and express. The perception towards women in the industry has been transformative, and it only takes a few forward-thinking leaders to break the ‘culture’ in their office, not just in architecture, but all professions.
Today, women are actively shaping the narrative as they assume the roles of founders and leaders in architecture. As a principal designer, I have never faced obstacles when leading a team of young professionals.
I firmly believe that women have a contrasting sentiment for architecture than men do. The difference flows into the design process and influences decision making that is ultimately embodied in real spaces. Women’s participation in the field is definitely on the rise worldwide, and India is not far behind. Women are contributing to architecture and planning in a myriad of ways and are holding authoritative positions. This is a far cry from the gender-biased architecture that was practiced in India a decade ago. Needless to say, on many forums, it is the women who are initiating changes.
Our lack of confidence in ourselves remains the biggest hindrance in our work. Not many of us are aggressive by nature; though we have a strong voice, we do not always establish authority and leadership.
— Ar. Arushi Bansal, Interior Design Director, AND Studio, New Delhi
It is a common misconception of the patriarchal society that women do not possess logic. However, designing buildings is a challenge and responsibility for anyone irrespective of gender. Architects should have an open mind, be good listeners and multi-taskers as they engage with a wide range of stakeholders and combine several consultants’ expertise into a synthesis with design sensibility. Women are attracted to such challenges and are an asset to the team when the opportunity arises.
My family visualized women as part of the more ‘gender-appropriate’ career in interior design. It wasn’t until my internship at AND Studio where I experienced building construction. My first site was a villa in Noida, which I had to co-pilot with five male colleagues. The experience polished my skills as an architect, taught me about the construction industry and shattered all regressive gender biases that existed between us.
Our lack of confidence in ourselves remains the biggest hindrance in our work. Not many of us are aggressive by nature; though we have a strong voice, we do not always establish authority and leadership. We need to be more confident among our male counterparts as talent and efficiency as the major qualities we need.
I was encouraged by amazing people who showed me the importance of good mentorship. From that viewpoint, more female role models would have been reassuring. Often, clients assume that a female architect is present only to take notes or for interior design. Thankfully, such prejudices are getting eradicated.