ArchEX2011: The Female Brain-Drain in Architecture

By A. Lira V. Luis posted 11-09-2011 06:20 PM


Read some of the Take-aways from this session during the Architecture Exchange East conference in Richmond, Virginia.

602 Labyrinth to the Top

In Fortune 500 companies only two percent of CEOs are women. Statistics are scarce, but one can assume that in prominent architectural firms, the numbers are similar. Anecdotal evidence supports the existence of a female "brain-drain" occurring in architectural firms of all sizes, as smart and capable women leave for more promising alternatives. This seminar offers proven strategies to retain and provide advancement opportunities to valued female professional employees.

Presented by Rena M Klein, FAIA

“Diversity is a Practice Management issue.” - Rena Klein, FAIA

The leaders in nation’s largest firms have 1 woman in their top leadership
Women occupy over 40% of managerial positions in the US
3% CEO positions
6% highly paid executives
15% board director memberships
in EU 4%

The corporate pipeline disproportionately loses women at every level. - McKinsey & Company

Number of women involved in architecture also goes down as steps in career path go forward. - AIA Firm Survey, ’03, ’06, ’09

Facts on Architecture Profession: (from Bureau of Labor Statistics and ’09 AIA Firm Survey)
2008 employment- 141,200
projected 2018 employment: 164,200
16% growth expected over next 10 years

Over 21% of architects are self-employed, 3 times that of any other occupation

10% of architects earn over $110,000 per year
10% architects earn under $40K per year

90% of firms are under 20 people but employ only 38% of total staff and account for only 26% of the billings

2005-2008 women made gains in all categories
except licensed architects
which stayed flat at 20%

NAAB 2009 Report on Accreditation: Gender disparity
Professors of architecture: 81% male
Assistant professors: 71% male

6K professional degrees were awarded in 2008-2009
2,500 to women

“It’s challenging for women to find role models.”

“Women are already interested in becoming architects.” (in reference to architect Barbie)

Salaries relative to men also fall with more years of experience. - Kathryn Anthony, Designing for Diversity (book), 2002
This applies to White men/women, Men/women of color = tracked by K Anthony in book

Fight-or-Flight Moment: Cutting female attrition yields huge gains
Researchers find evidence of a female brain-drain in science, engineering and technology.
52% of women in these fields leave their jobs between 35 and 40 years old. - Harvard Business Review, 2008, Stopping the Exodus of Women in Science

Why Do Women Leave?
  • vestiges of prejudice
  • resistance to women’s leadership (women in leadership face a double bind)
  • demands of family life
via Harvard Business Review, 2007, Women and the Labyrinth of Leadership

There is a 26% increase in return-on-investment (ROI) when women are in corporate boards.

2005-2050 demographic trend: Retaining 35-40 yr old employees between now to 2020 will be competitive advantage.

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