In architecture, what historic and contemporary concerns arise from the fact that the profession is strongly male-dominated in Australia? Currently, 90% of registered architects in NSW are men. What proportion of the profession should ideally be occupied by women and why? Throughout human history, we have always experienced a certain level of inequality between sexes. This concern affects everyone, both men and women.
This inequality is an important issue within the workforce of many professions, such as architecture, landscape architecture, city planning, and design within the built environment. The industrial revolution led to women being segregated from home, creating greater spatial division that impacted gender roles. Kate Lyons describes a common concept regarding the relationship between public and private space and male and female. This model represents the suburbanization that occurred in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Many suburban women are constrained in their daily activities due to limited accessibility and mobility in low-density suburbs, leading to feelings of isolation from the inner city. These constraints on gender roles also limit women’s opportunities in the broader professions within the built environment. Architects and contractors often refuse to employ or work with women, and people with money to spend are hesitant to entrust their expenditure to a woman. This is likely because women are often kept at home and lack knowledge of the outside world, leading to their marginalization in design professions.
Architects and other similar professional fields have perceived women not as professionals but as passive clients. Women are users of the designed built environment as there are only a few who have the opportunity to design them. This forces women to adapt to the way environments have been designed by men. There is a concern that 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 their 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 disadvantaged group with exclusive needs. Many of these needs are inadequately met or even unmet. 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 issues. Having considered women’s issues within the built environment, in conclusion, 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 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. Bibliography: 1. Allen, J., Evidence and Silence: Feminism and the Limits of History in Feminist Challenges, 1986.
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.
Hanna, B., Three Feminist Analyses of the Built Environment in Architectural Theory Review, vol. 1, no. 1, April 1996.