Women are still in minority and need to break the glass ceiling when it comes to architectural education and active roles in the field, says Martha Thorne, an American architectural academic, curator, editor, and author.
“As far as women in the field of architecture are concerned globally, we are still facing the glass ceiling. Several European countries still have a dismal male-female ratio of teachers in architectural schools,” said Thorne, who is also the Executive Director of the Pritzker Architecture Prize and Dean in the architecture school at IE University in Madrid.
Unfortunately, it’s the way the profession is and sometimes there are structures that perpetuate hiring a male architect. Also, there are values and skill sets that women have not had a chance to develop. More credence is given to the heroic figure rather than the collaborative figure and there are discriminations on the part of individuals, says Martha.
Despite the architectural growth, the education is facing several challenges. Thorne says it needs to be multi-disciplinary and there should be a collaboration between professionals and the teaching institutes to enhance project-based learning. Sometimes schools lag behind, as the technology moves faster. For instance, soon virtual reality will be a design tool rather than just being a presentation tool.
“Architects need to understand the big picture on how the economic world works and how political decisions are taken -to be more effective. They should not be seen by the society as artists, but as true decision makers. In the past, we have often tried to train architects to be either building engineers or artists and this attitude needs to change,” opines Martha.
The idea that an architect is an artist that creates beautiful things in only a small part of what they could do for the society. There are many roles in architecture that professionals can fulfil.
“Architects should be involved in challenges such as affordable housing, sustainability, and migration as they can contribute significantly. They can bring together many professions; for instance, they can work with material scientists to invent new materials. Technology companies are making great proposals in building smart cities, and architects can help in developing the physical environment,” Thorne says.