Of what historic and contemporary concern is it that the architecture profession has been, and continues to be, strongly male dominated in Australia (currently 90% of registered architects in NSW are men). Ideally, what proportion of the profession should women occupy and why?
From the start of human history, we always experience certain level of inequality between sexes. It can be seen everywhere around the world and is a concern to everyone, both men and women. This inequality is an important issue within the workforce of many professions, such as being an architect, landscape architect, city planners and designers within the built environment.
Industrial revolution is the onset for women to become segregated from home, creating greater spatial division to impact on gender roles. There is common concept between the relationship of public and private space with male and female as described by Kate Lyons,
PUBLIC þ Male þ Economic and Political þ WORK
PRIVATE þ Female þ Reproduction and Domestic life þ HOME
This model represents the suburbanisation occurring in the late 19th century and the early 20th century. Many suburban women are forced within their daily activities due to the constraints on accessibility and mobility in low-density suburbs and lead to a feeling of being isolated from the inner city. These constraints of this gender role affect the women's ability in the broader professions within the built environment, as they were restricted at home.
"… Architects do not like to employ women in their offices; contractors do not like to build from their plans; people with money to spend do not like to entrust its expenditure to a woman." This is probably due to the fact that women are kept at home without 'knowing much' of the 'outside world'; the design professions have intrigued women into marginal roles. Architects and other similar professional fields "have perceived women not as profession but as passive clients."
From these, women are users of the designed built environment as there are only few to have the opportunity to design them. This forces women to adapt to the way environments have been designed (by men).
There is a concern where many women architects, landscape architects, planners, builders and designers such as Catharine Beecher, Louise Bethune. Eileen Gray, Julia Morgan, and others are not formally identified with professions. Many of their works have been credited to their male colleagues.
Another concern is that there is a lack of sensitivity towards women's needs within the built environment. Design strategies and schemes often fail to consider women as a disadvantage group with exclusive needs, many of these needs are inadequately met or even un-met. This was evident in several Local Environmental Plans and Development Control Plans of the Sydney Metropolitan area that had not identified women as a disadvantage group to be included amongst the handicapped and elderly in design issue.
Having considered women's issues within the built environment, in concluding one must ask are the fundamentals of professions of the built environment gender biased? Whilst the outcomes of these are gender biased, the fundamentals of planning require subsequent analysis in order to resolve the question.
"… not only do men and women view a common world from different perspectives, they view different worlds as well." The issues raised are not subject to strictly to women, but men also experience them though with less intensity. In addressing these issues a gender sensitive environment will be beneficial to all.
1. Allen, J., Evidence and Silence: Feminism and the Limits of History in Feminist Challenges, 1986.
2. Freestone, R., Florence Taylor: The Lady Town Planner of Loftus Street in New Planner, Dec 1991.
3. Hanna, B., Florence Taylor's Hats in Architecture Bulletin, Oct 1986.
4. Hanna, B., Three Ferminist Analyses of the Built Environment in Architectural Theory Review, vol. 1, no.1, April 1996.
Word Count: 572