Statistics on women in the architecture profession in Australia tell a story of women having truncated careers, limited longevity in the profession, and relative invisibility, despite significant and longstanding contributions. While Dana Cuff argues that the career path for all architects is fraught with uncertainty, gender appears to figure powerfully in making a career in architecture even more difficult for women. The situation is not well understood, since previous research has tended to draw on simple statistical counts, surveys, and anecdotal reportage—methods that are not necessarily subtle enough to investigate gendered practices in depth. However, research from other fields, particularly those investigating gender and the professions more broadly, reveals that architecture, while perhaps an extreme case, is not alone in its patterns of women’s participation. The fact that this has been rarely drawn upon within the field of architecture points to a significant gap in current knowledge regarding the impact of gender in the profession. Gaining a deeper understanding of this situation was a major impetus behind the Australian Research Council–funded Linkage Project: “Equity and Diversity in the Australian Architecture Profession: Women, Work and Leadership (2011–2014),” of which this dissertation forms a discrete part.
This thesis contributes to knowledge by examining the complexity of gender in the Australian architecture profession through two main strategies, combining quantitative and qualitative methods in a complementary manner. The first strategy involves depicting the macro-scale patterns of women’s participation in the profession in Australia more comprehensively than has been done before, by developing an analysis from a wider range of statistical data than are usually sourced. It finds that, although women are present in greater numbers than usually cited, the growth of women’s participation is markedly slower than previously predicted, at a rate that lags behind other professions, and that is distorted by certain peculiarities in the architecture profession. This quantitative analysis strengthens the case that there are gendering processes shaping architectural careers, and indicates those points at which women tend to disappear over the course of a career in architecture.
Building on the first research strategy, the second and larger part of the dissertation mobilises methods rarely deployed to investigate gender in architecture in Australia; specifically, interviews and workplace observation. Drawing upon seventy interviews held in three large commercial architecture practices, and observation in offices in Sydney and Brisbane, the dissertation seeks to illuminate the social construction of gender in the Australian architecture profession. It uses an analytical framework developed by Joan Acker and others to investigate how gender silently structures the profession forming a gendered substructure. In using this framework to analyse the experiences of both women and men working in architecture, the dissertation is able to highlight the priorities, practices, and ideologies that generate gender inequities in the contemporary architecture profession. It reveals the degree to which a series of taken-for-granted structural and cultural conditions and interactions permit and reproduce gender inequity in career advancement in architecture.