design careers

The Gender Pay Gap In Design: What Are We Doing About It?

ishika kapoor

Writer at Oneistox

September 09

8 mins read

Hey! Welcome to the year 1921. Oh no! Wait, it is 2021? Then why are we still discussing this topic?? In this past century, humans have evolved and progressed. The women have empowered their rights and are independent. But still, women all over the world are facing indifference at their workplace - GENDER PAY GAP!!

How often do you come across non-male genders in a leadership position in the design field? From a messed-up work/life balance to sexism, women have to face a lot of challenges. There is an ideology that the credibility of a married woman or a working mother is less, as she has to shift her focus from work and balance her family. That leads to discrimination in the gender diversity in design fields. No matter how well she can juggle between her job and family, it is still an ‘either-or’ situation rather than an ‘and’ situation.

Fact: The ratio of males to females in a leadership position is just 11%. SHOCKING right! The women are not just struggling to reach the top, but at a lower job profile, females are discriminated against and are deprived of big opportunities to showcase their full potential.

Chart showing percent of acceptance for women as an architect

In comparison to a male counterpart, a female has to work thrice the amount of her male colleague to get recognition. For the same amount of work, there is a wide difference in salary. It is not just a problem of small unpopular firms but is also noticed among the high-end firms like Norman Foster+ Partners.

But what is the reason for this gap?

As a woman in architecture, you’re always an outsider. It’s okay, I like being on the edge.

- Zaha Hadid told the Financial Times in 2015

Except that’s not OK! So, to provide a cure, we need to find the disease. Let’s jump into some of the misconceptions of why women struggle with equal pay and opportunities in the design field:

Chart showing percent of discrimination faced against women

1. Oh Honey! Site Work is a ‘Man’s Job’

There are stereotypes that women are weaker and incapable of on-the-site duty. In actuality, an architect just has to supervise and check. There is no use of strength. Thus, it is invalid to objectify females. Due to this, women are stuck at desk jobs, and hence, their professional growth hinders.

2. Lack of Female Mentorship

Due to the lower rate of female leaders to guide and mentor young professionals, the newcomer female designer struggles. If there have been more inspirational ladies in the higher end, other upcoming females would get optimistic. The aspiring females would feel that all the struggle was worth it!

3. Divertive in between Career and Family

The real reason for women to take a step back from work is societal pressure. The ideology of the society for women is to take care of family rather than men and women together. This leads to employers' disposition in women. They assume that women will leave or put in lesser time and effort. These are gender roles that are placed above and beyond the wishes of the women themselves.

[Read: Be Future Ready: 5 Reasons You Need to Upskill to be a Better Designer]

What is the scenario in India?

Male and Female percentage of architects in year 2020

The count of female and male students in the design school is 50:50. But after leaving the school, the ratio disrupts. With the challenges faced by women, they tend to abandon the practice. On the brighter side, in India, according to the Council of Architecture, India, the ratio of practicing female architects is more than 47% in comparison to 34% in the previous decade.

Placement of women architects in India in the year 2020

What are firms doing about this?

Pay-scale difference between women and me in architecture firm

In the UK, the government asked all the organizations with a staff capacity above 250 to provide the gender pay gap data annually. This small initiative has brought to the world's notice the disparity in the income between male and female employees. This showcased the condition of some of the leading architectural firms like Zaha Hadid Architects, Hawkins Brown Architects, Foster+ Partners, and Allies and Morgan.

But some firms in the world have been able to achieve zero gender pay gap. Morphogenesis in India and Studio Gang in the USA are some firms with gender pay gap equality.

In 2019, Sonali Rastogi and her partner Manit Rastogi, founder of Morphogenesis, declared the firm to be a 'gender-positive pay gap'. They adopted a scheme known as FLEX that gave extended maternity leave and financial assistance for new parents, with flexible working arrangements for new mothers. They worked hard on placing a range of policies and processes in place to ensure women continue their professional careers.

Similar to Morphogenesis, Studio Gang, founded by Jeanne Gang, addressed the gender gap and tried to resolve the differences through pay rise. She advises that pay is a number, and the inequality can be sorted in a very tangible way. That will ensure a better environment for creativity to flourish. Other than firms, sites like Dezeen have started an initiative called Move the Needle, which helps the firms to assess the gender pay in their company.

[Read: Internship 101: 5 Best Architecture Firms in Asia to Check Out]

Small-small steps like these will make the world more cautious and help them prevent indifference in the workplace!

There is still a long way ahead to achieve a gender-neutral pay gap. We, both male and female designers, need to collaborate and work together to achieve the goal of gender diversity in design fields. A gender pay gap free design firm should be a goal for a better future.

Till then keep upskilling and stay connected with Oneistox for more insightful blogs and courses!

[Read: 8 Reasons Why Designers Choose to Upskill with Oneistox]

ishika kapoor

student of architecture
Ishika Kapoor is an architecture student graduating from Thakur School of Architecture and Planning, Mumbai. She is a sucker for good thrillers and art, and believes in the motto of trying something new every day. She promotes social causes through architecture and believes that when design resonates with words, it stimulates power.

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