It has been a while since I began considering whether gender was, in fact, relevant when it came to the industry I work in.
Personally, I was brought up to be the best “human” rather than the best “woman” I could, and therefore I have always started all my discussions at that level. Obviously men and women are different, but in my opinion, the discussion should not be about gender but ability to perform.
As I have grown older so have those surrounding me and clearly, the physicality of being a woman, especially at times of difficult economical developments, seems to be serving some with the perfect excuse to practice all sorts of gender discrimination above and beyond what has traditionally been tolerated in the profession.
A few days ago, in the Guardian, I read Zaha Hadid discuss this topic very openly on the back of the AJ’s survey which I too have filled in. The survey, aimed at architectural staff ( men, women, qualified and not) is full of challenging questions that do open your eyes to the truths of the profession. Not necessarily to the topics but to the fact that others too have noticed them (not only you and your closest friends)
There are some difficult topics like salary, discrimination, harassment and maternity/paternity leave. It does feel as though the profession is bizarrely behind the times when compared to other professions, despite the numbers of females going through the educational system.
Ms Hadid, the architect who on being asked how did it feel to be the first woman to have won the Pritzker, replied that she had never been a man and therefore did not know any different, has decided that it is time to talk, as the bad habits of an otherwise worthy profession need to change.
A lot of criticism has followed her declarations in what I find to be a bizarre turn of events. People criticise her manner, her background and her way to run the office; but somehow they miss the point of the topic of discussion… the other females in the profession who may be less famous.
I know quite a few people who have worked at the office at different stages and levels and I have to say that most of their views are somewhat different to the vilified image that many focus on. However I do wonder if this might have something to do with the fact that they are all now professionals in their own right. Never the less, I do find strange that people find any opportunity to a. attack someone from the anonymity of the internet and b. that people chose to be so easily diverted from the main topic of discussion.
Worst even, the fact is that those commenting on the topic of discussion suggested that the problem is that women don’t “want it enough” and imply that as they are not be prepared to steal (clients and jobs) from colleagues as male (apparently) would. This I found particularly fascinating as it implies that all men do this as a rule and that everyone need to lower standards in order to get to the top. So much for the professional code!
To me it is simple. Everyone deserves to be respected no matter what job they do or what gender they are. Their contribution should be acknowledged and it should make no difference whether they are young, old, female or male. This is a great profession to be working at because you do get a sense of achievement and contribution to something that is much bigger than your own small little world, however, it is fair to say that there is an acute need to tune in with the 21st century.