Industry Veteran Offers Advice for Women in Architecture

By on March 11, 2019

From The Architect’s Newspaper:  As the sole founder and president of Bortolotto, a design and architecture firm in Toronto, I have had my fair share of gender-based discrimination throughout my career. On this International Women’s Day, I find myself reflecting on the 20-year journey as a female-led firm and the implications it has for the female architects of today. From learning how to be heard in the boardroom to mastering project bids and networking in a room full of men, there are skills that I’ve had to hone on a steep learning curve of condescending comments and awkward conversations starting at the beginning of my career. My hope is that the women navigating the architecture industry in 2019 are able to take the work of their forerunners and leverage those advances to their benefit and success today.

The truth is that women are natural leaders and are necessary to every senior management team, but the statistics make motivating female entrepreneurs difficult: A study by Dezeen found that women occupy just 10 percent of the highest-ranking jobs at the world’s leading architecture firms, while 16 firms have no women at all in senior positions. The study also showed that the percentage of women decreases steadily at each ascending tier of management. Only 3 of the top 100 architecture firms are headed by a woman while just 10 percent of the very highest leadership positions are held by women. These numbers ultimately mean that women are desperately underrepresented and that the architecture we see around us is built by men, for men. That being said, women make up 50 percent of the population and 47 percent of the workforce. Women are entrepreneurs, consumers, mothers, employees, and leaders—all types of women need to be represented at a table full of decision-makers and at all management levels.

When it comes to boardrooms specifically, women tend to be at a disadvantage. With women being so much in the minority, it can feel discouraging and impossible to make an impact at the table when looking around. From my experience in the male-dominated architecture industry and in boardrooms outnumbered by men, our work and experience are highly valued—although that may not seem the case at first. Your peers will listen to you when you make yourself heard.

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About Dede Hance