Why Aren't There More Women in Design and Development?

Amanda Hurley explores the gender imbalance present among women in architecture and the "male-dominated world" of development, and questions the societal and biological justifications that many argue are determinants for choosing professional roles.

2 minute read

September 19, 2012, 12:00 PM PDT

By Emily Williams


In terms of gender balance, architecture and development have not caught up to other professions like law and medicine. Though nearly half of the architecture student body in the country is female, "just 17 percent are firm principals and partners, according to a 2012 AIA survey of 2,805 member firms. For some reason, while they're ascending the architectural career ladder, thousands of women hit a glass ceiling, leave the profession, or get pushed out." The development field isn't much better, as "just 30 percent of all development professionals are women."

This striking imbalance, writes Hurley, may exist for numerous reasons. One of those reasons, she claims, is that women are making a conscious effort to affirm autonomy in their professions, thereby steering clear of male-dominated firms and agencies, which make up the bulk of the development field. But in doing so, claims architect Audrey Matlock, "[women] may be inadvertently making it more difficult for themselves to gain the experience they need for developer projects."

A biological argument puts women at a greater advantage over men, writes Hurley. Developer Romy Goldman argues that, "Women, because of the attention they tend to give to details that make a place more livable, can make a qualitative difference on a project." But Hurley, contends it may not be as much about your biology, but whether or not your personality is a match for the tasks ahead. "[You're] on a jobsite with all men; it's dirty; you're not dealing with a formal environment. You have to be very comfortable with risk and the unknown, because that's what it is on a daily basis."

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