Parlour may sound a bit old-fashioned but rather than being presided over by Jane Austen, who nevertheless might have had suitable wit and insight, it is a forward-thinking organisation promoting gender equity.

Building on its strong online networks, it now has its first Sydney event, a varied photographic exhibition, Portraits of practice: at work in architecture.  This shows women in architecture “working to increase their visibility, celebrate their achievement and shift industry thinking to greater support of career possibility for women in practice”, says Parlour co-founder and editor, Justine Clark.

There are vistas of women (and some men) working at their desks, on-site, in their offices, eating in kitchens, looking at drawings and peering at computer screens; I particularly identified with glasses perched on the end of noses.

151007-pop-0844.jpgThe Portraits of Practice: at Work in Architecture exhibition will run until 11 September. Photography by Phuong Le

It is accompanied by an excellent brochure, with an essay by Queensland University’s Dr Naomi Stead, explaining the exhibition’s rationale and concentration on visual representation, understandable enough but as a text-oriented person I wished for some explanation of the processes and rhythms of those offices.

Research from Gill Matthewson, also from Queensland University, flashes up on a large screen, sometimes too fast to absorb the stubborn statistics of women graduating for the last two decades as 40 per cent but only 21 per cent registering, or the plummet from graduation to even early days of a professional career (the decimated mid to late 20 year olds).

The relentless culture, work hours, family demands and desire for more recognition and variety means that many women still leave firms to set up on their own. Almost as an antidote the afore-mentioned photos were from three large workplaces: BVN, Bates Smart and PTW Architects. Other images of architects standing with varied stances, expressions and colourful dress are from the 2010 Australian Institute of Architects’ Conference.

Dr Naomi Stead and Justine Clark of Parlour Inc. Photography by Phuong Le

Clark won this year’s Marion Mahony Griffin Prize and the Parlour Guides to Equitable Practice won the National Bates Smart Award for Architecture in the Media. This impressive series covers issues such as equity, recruitment, promotion, negotiation, leadership and career progression, its different paths and “nuanced” definitions of success for women, with tactics and suggestions for practices wanting to change things. It remains to be seen how far these will be taken up.

Tin Sheds Gallery, University of Sydney until September 11;

Reaching out and changing perceptions will be one of the aims of the National Association of Women in Construction’s National Conference Building a better future for the construction industry, October 8-9 Pullman Hotel, Albert Park Melbourne. Others are to reduce the workplace gender gap and increase the participation – and influence – of women in the construction industry; grow and sustain a healthy industry; celebrate the achievements of the construction industry in Australia and share NAWIC’s excitement for what the future holds, challenging, inspiring and motivating delegates.

CEO Laurice Temple, says “The national conference will be an amazing and unique opportunity to network with people working in the industry from all over Australia, to learn new skills, and be a part of the community who are championing changes to become a more equitable and inclusive industry regardless of age, gender or culture;”


And engineering company Thomson Taylor Whitting had its own take on community choosing Sydney’s inner-city Chippendale to take clients to the streets to investigate Changer your Perspective: Street Art (#CYPStreetArt) (pictured above). Four up and coming street artists explained the evolution of street art and its application in today’s society, with clients and construction industry professionals also giving it a go.   Says TTW Director Barry Young, “our events are about truly interacting with the local community and opening our minds to something completely new … to looking “at the world around them, and themselves, in a different light”.


Deborah Singerman runs her own writing, editing, proofing and project managing consultancy specialising in the urban built environment and community.  @deborahsingerma