Project: BABY


The Impact of Motherhood on an Architectural Career

So now you have created a baby, how do you manage your biggest ever project — being a mother and architect. Architecture and motherhood — how does one role impact the other, what restrictions does the relationship introduce and what are the expectations for women — what age should they have children, will they return to work and how many hours will they have to dedicate to their working life as compared to their motherhood role? We need to discuss these topics and explore how motherhood is a potential barrier preventing women from achieving director roles.

When evaluating whether or not discrimination exists for women in architecture, and whether barriers exist hindering them from achieving potential director roles, it seems evidence exists suggesting that there are many challenges for women in the architectural workforce when family life and motherhood are part of the equation. By looking at female architects in their thirties, aiming for a director role in a firm, I presented this scenario to Dani Martin,(from EIW Architects) who, although ‘doesn’t view the industry as male dominated’, is herself aiming for a director role, but however, believes that it may in fact be more difficult for her to achieve as she “is at the age where it is expected that she will be leaving to have children soon”.[1] She is aware, this presumption is a factor effecting the amount of women aiming and achieving director roles, mainly as they do not feel that they will even be given a chance with the perception that they are ruled by their biological clock.

Motherhood instigating inequalities for women in architecture also extends woman re-entering the workforce after having children. Female architects have been known to ‘start their own practice after having children, to give them the freedom to decide their priorities’.[2] Many struggled to find part time work and flexible working hours as suggested in a Parlour Survey relating to pregnancy and architecture “Now that I have a baby, there would have been very little chance of me finding work in practice because most practices do not want to offer part-time work”.[3] Working part time may pose a challenge when running a project as there is the need for available any day any time.[4] This inflexibility creates the difficulty with mothers priorities divided between architectural responsibility and parenting, made even harder if a woman hasn’t had lots of work experience pre- children.[5] ‘Depending on the amount of time away from the workforce, technology, regulatory and product developments and advancements have occurred, making it challenging to keep up’.[6] Another important aspect to take into consideration is office culture —being available to work after hours as other employees can and, on an emotional level, where there’s the likelihood the firm’s director will be male, there may be a level of “misunderstanding between women returning to work and employers”.[7]

“It’s tough. Absolutely tough……..We have a long way to go to allow working mothers proper support and equal opportunity in the workforce while balancing responsibilities of child rearing”.- Melinda Payne

So are there inequalities for women in architecture? Motherhood definitely creates challenges for the female architect that perhaps are less daunting then other occupations. But what can also be frustrating, is the presumption that every female has the same maternal yearning.



  1. Martin, Dani (Associate Director, EIW Architects), in discussion with the author, September 2017
  2. Marshall, Carolyn (Building Research and Technical Services, Building Management and Works), in discussion with the author, March 2018
  3. 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 3
  4. Martin, Dani (Associate Director, EIW Architects), in discussion with the author, September 2017
  5. Rush, Stephanie (Architect, Chindarsi Architects), in discussion with the author, March 2018
  6. Martin, Dani (Associate Director, EIW Architects), in discussion with the author, September 2017
  7. Martin, Dani (Associate Director, EIW Architects), in discussion with the author, September 2017

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