More than a Single Storey


Is there a Glass Ceiling for Women in Architecture?

ALL QUOTES ARE RESPONSES TO THE SURVEY: Susie Ashworth and Justine Clark , Pregnancy Discrimination and Returning to Work” (The University of Queensland Australia, 2013), and Dani Martin (associate director, EIW Architects), in discussion with the author, September 2017 .


So for your chance to win 1 million dollars in cash, name a female architect other than Zaha Hadid….and no Zaha is NOT related to celebrity models Bella and Gigi Hadid! Any takers?
Why is it that we can count on one hand, actually one finger, the number recognised female architects in the world.

To evaluate architecture as being a male or female dominated industry, I want to take into consideration both the statistics and the voices of both female and male architects and directors working in the industry. Initial statistics from firms in Western Australia, indicate that of the 95 directors of the firms surveyed (32 firms in total), 3 have female directors who were the founders the firm, and 5 have female directors who are not founders of the firms. Comparing these results to that of male directors — 29 who are founders of the firms and 58 directors not founders of the firms, already signals some major differences.[1] As a percentage, 92% of the directors of firms in Western Australia are males.[2] So purely statistically speaking, the architectural industry is predominately male, in Western Australia — do these results hold true in other states and even worldwide? In fact, they do, with Parlour research comparing the percentage of female employers vs. employees, with males. These statistics which are a broader representation of the architectural industry in Australia show that a greater proportion of male architects as employers, unlike females who a larger proportion are employees.[3]

Figure 1: Percentage of male and female employees and employers


From: page 17Where statistics present a very ‘black and white’ view of the industry, they do not take into consideration the individual experiences of female architects and whether they feel their role as a female architect is “unique”, whether positive or negative, if they feel discriminated or ever experience harassment. And are there issues relating to motherhood — the expectation or perception they will want to have a child and hence, perhaps create a barrier achieving director roles, and are they presented with similar “assumption based” issues when re-entering the workforce after having children and the struggles and compromises faced juggling motherhood and the demands of the architectural industry. Evidence was presented in a Parlour survey in which Australian female architects were interviewed about architecture and motherhood, with many responses generated suggestive of this “battle”— such as “my previous employer once remarked “I would have offered you a senior position, but I didn’t think you wanted to, because you’re a mum”.[4]

Are these issues actually faced by all women re entering the workforce? Are some of these issues fabricated or exaggerated? Are women needing to achieve these director roles so they feel equal with their male counterparts, or are women satisfied with just working in their vocation at ground level? Do we need to segregate architects into their genders? Is it at times, advantageous to be female over male in some instances? Or is it a disadvantage? Topics like this have been noted, and as expressed by Hannah Tribe, “I think it is harder for a male architect going to a building site to say ‘oh my god, I’ve got no idea what that thing is,’ whereas a woman can say that, and the men [builders] seem to like teaching female architects. So that is a real advantage, that kind of freedom to ask a lot of questions without it becoming an ego or macho issue at all.”[5]

“I haven’t seen gender being an advantage or disadvantage in my career at all in architecture”- Hannah Tribe

Considering the data and voices of those in the moment, what is evident is, there will be many differing interpretations and information presented and this opens up many avenues for discussion and thought. Over the weeks we can explore every floor of this topic, and realise it’s not a single story development.





  • [4] Ashworth, Susie and Clark, Justine , Pregnancy Discrimination and Returning to Work. Relevant material from two surveys of the architecture profession: ‘Where do all the women go?’ and ‘And what about the men? (The University of Queensland Australia, 2013), page 13.
  • [1], [2] Martin, Dani. Perth Architecture Firms. In discussion with the author, 2017.
  • [3] Matthewson, Gill. “The Numbers in a Nutshell.” Parlour, June 18, 2017. Accessed March 14,
    2018. page 17
  • [5] Tribe, Hannah. “Just Don’t Mention Feminism.” Interview by Naomi Stead. Parlour, March, 28, 2012,

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