Saturday19 August 2017

Incoming RIBA president launches women campaign on Twitter

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Jane Duncan unveils #SeeMeJoinMe plan at BD-backed event

Jane Duncan, president elect of the RIBA, has announced plans for a global social media campaign to encourage women into construction careers.

She is in talks with other industry bodies around the world including the RICS and the US and Australian architects’ institutes.

The campaign, which will coincide with International Women’s Day on March 8, is intended to show young women, parents and teachers that careers in construction are not off-limits to girls.

It will provide thousands of female role models, probably by encouraging women working in construction to post images of themselves on social media with the slogan #SeeMeJoinMe.

Duncan, who takes over as president of the RIBA in September, announced the idea at a Chicks with Bricks networking event for women in construction held at the Houses of Parliament on Wednesday night.

“I was sounding people out to see if there was any traction,” she said. “I got a resounding whoop of support so I’m now I’m going to plot the details. The idea is simply to make a bit of noise in the construction industry around the world and make women a bit more visible.”

Just 12% of people working in UK construction are women. The Chicks with Bricks event, which was supported by BD and its sister title Building, was attended by 150 women and 16 men.

This was a physical representation in reverse of the male:female ratio in the industry, said network founder Holly Porter, a director of Surface to Air Architects.

Several of the men spoke of their discomfort and said it would be good for more of their male colleagues to experience being outnumbered.

Duncan praised the event’s other speakers, who included education secretary Nicky Morgan and former equalities minister Meg Mullen, as “fantastic role models”.

But she said: “I have a concern that we are preaching to the converted. The difficulties we face are outside this room.

“We have a fantastic industry but the only problem is keeping women there. In architecture, women disappear into almost a black hole by the time they are at child-bearing age.

“A significant part of our industry has an ostrich approach to diversity. The world is changing around us but this industry is not changing fast enough and it will die if we don’t help it.”



Readers' comments (22)

  • Munter Roe


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  • The problem is not so much bringing women into the profession as keeping them there. Earnings as an architect are low relative to childcare costs. Hours are long and flexibility required, meaning that afterschool clubs cannot cater. Whilst men traditionally rely on their wives to be at home with the children while they muddle through into the small hours, many women are forced to be part-time and/or self-employed to generate the required flexibility to manage childcare costs and avoid paying to work. Having started in a class of 50% women, all of whom qualified and most of whom worked as architects until they had children, many of my peers have simply given up for better paid careers. Many have left construction altogether.
    Assistance from the RIBA would be welcome both in working to increase architectural earnings through perceived value to clients at the lower end and in managing childcare costs which come from post-tax income. This is particularly the case for the many of us who are now self-employed and not therefore eligible for childcare tax credits and other benefits that larger companies may (but in my experience usually don't) offer employees. Unfortunately RIBA membership is often one of the first costs to be cut.

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  • Anna hit the nail on the head! I calculated that if you have two children you need to make approx £45k to break even with the cheapest childcare costs. That doesn't even account for travel to work, and time you have to take off when they are sick etc. And that's working a basic day - not thinking about any overtime.

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  • Munter Roe


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  • heard a very similar story on Farming Today.
    I don't expect to see a practice manager again because her P/T salary does cover childcare costs. she'l possibly seek employment again when the children can care for themselves.

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  • seem to be lots of poorly paid female planners in local authorities who seem to manage job sharing or working part-time & presumably think it's worth it.

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  • Of course, you're not actually forced to breed in the first place.

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  • SomeoneStoleMyNick

    Children are expensive. Before you have any you need to do some calculations. I'll never forget the look on my father's face when unexpectedly my mother had.....TWINS. His expression was not happy. It said "how am I going to cover this?"

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  • Munter, what other way would you have it ?

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  • Still can't believe there's an event called 'Chicks with Bricks'.

    I'm all for equality in the workplace and construction, but at least come up with something with more credibility than that, especially the pink swirly font.

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