Women working in architectural professions - Abigail Patel, Architect

For this month's women in Architecture #Anxietyarch theme Abi Patel looks at how working within the architectural professions comes with different challenges and pressures for all individuals across the sector, whether you're female, male, have years of experience or are just starting off at university.

"As a group within the profession, women represent only 26% of registered architects in the UK (2018), which from the outset can cause stress and demand on the mental wellbeing those working within architecture. At university, the male and female split amongst students is more or less 50/50, but this split continues to drop towards Part 3, resulting in this disproportion of male to female architects across the profession. Many factors contribute to this, and identifying these is key to understanding the challenges experienced by both women and men, and therefore how the profession as a whole can start to address them.

It is a well-known fact that studying architecture, and becoming a qualified architect, is a long process- taking a minimum of 7 years to complete in the UK (although many, including myself, would argue this is longer in reality). This long process of studying and working (often feeling like the end is so far away, or being overwhelmed by all the work still to come) can have a negative effect on many individuals, and therefore women in the workforce.

These concerns continue into practice, when those who have worked towards registration - and are looking to progress through their career - face other pressures and challenges such as achieving a healthy work/life balance, having and maintaining a family, worries over pay, career progression etc.

But there are things that the profession can do to address these concerns and alleviate the anxieties and stresses faced by women, and others working within architectural sectors.

Often, we speak about role models and mentors as being significant to the early stages of our careers- relevant to those still in university or just beginning in their profession. The traditional lack of women in senior roles across jobs in architecture can lead to many younger women in the profession feeling like they have little prospects to aspire to, or that they might be more suited to finding a job in another sector. However, having these key figures throughout the entirety of our careers is key to ensuring that women always have someone to look up to in a position that they would like to see themselves holding in the future.

Flexible working is also a key aspect of practice, which seeks to address some of the pressures faced by those working within architectural professions. The traditional emphasis on long hours and tight deadlines within the world of architecture lead those whose lives do not conform to the typical 9-5 to feel that they are under added challenges. Parents with young children or those caring for elderly parents are just one group of people who serve as an example of this. Flexible and/or part time working for everyone working in practice, not just certain individuals, seeks to create a more adaptable working environment where everyone can make the most out of themselves at work and at home- contributing to a healthier work/life balance.

These are just a couple of the ways that the profession as a whole can begin seeking a fairer working environment and a healthy mental wellbeing for all, but it is critical that we are addressing these issues across the industry- in both practice, university and beyond."

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