“When I finished studying, near the end of the 90s, it was much more challenging to be a female architect as I was often made to feel that architecture was a man’s world. I would mostly be the only woman in meetings and even my mail was often addressed to Mr Angela.
Thankfully, as a profession, we have progressed – University graduates are equally split between male and female, so now I am surrounded by a team of both capable men and women.However, it has been my personal growth, particularly my own confidence over time, that has really enabled me to fulfil my full career potential and hopefully to create the workplace culture that enables others to flourish.
For this article, instead of talking about the challenging issues I have needed to overcome (and there have been many) I wanted to talk about the three key ways that I try and deal with workplace issues.
These are my three key actions to maintain a positive workplace culture:
1. The quick check
Quite often we instinctively know when something is not right but can only vocalise it after the incident has passed. I use some quick responses such as ‘I don’t agree’, ‘that is not right’, ‘that is inappropriate’, allowing me to vocalise my feelings but without having to find the words to describe why it isn’t right, or to feel that I need to justify anything in the moment.
2. The quiet word
Sometimes it really helps to find the time to make somebody aware that an issue is important to you. It doesn’t need to be face-to-face – even an email will do – but taking the time to say that it is not okay really provides clarity, even for small issues. This is great in helping to move towards a more positive and inclusive environment on a number of issues.
3. Power in numbers
When things are really not going well, sometimes the only way to be heard is in larger numbers. Find backup, find your army. Some issues are not going to be conquered or changed whilst on your own. Finding like-minded people also helps you keep course and reassures you that you are not wasting your energy.
While we are still quite far from true equality and know the challenge must go on, I think we need to look more broadly in our profession to ensure we are diverse and inclusive. Inclusivity and health and wellbeing go hand in hand. We need to be supportive of everyone in our practices, to ensure that we not only retain the best talent, but also work towards making architecture the amazing and supportive profession it should be.”