A study published in the September journal of Creative Education has revealed that many Australian architecture graduates do not go on to become registered architects because of gender-based issues and the lack of suitable employment opportunities.

Why Architecture Graduates Do Not Register As Architects: A Quantitative and Qualitative south Australian Study 1999-2011’ says female graduates are often deterred from completing their registration as architects, while gaining suitable employment was also a factor of non-registration for both men and women.

The study, which tracked 13 cohorts of graduates from two Australian architecture schools in South Australia, showed that more than three-quarters of female graduates over the period 1999-2011 had not registered as architects prior to 2014.

Just 21 per cent of all registered architects in Australia in 2012 were women, despite female students forming at least 40 per cent of graduating B Arch (now M Arch) classes since 1999 and expressing their desire to be registered.

“The proportion or registered women has changed slowly in the past 18 years despite a greater awareness of gendered roles, pay equity, work-life balance, family-friendly government and private sector policies, and international attention to inequity in the profession,” the authors write.

Yet women still constitute a minority among the registered architectural profession worldwide, whilst graduating from architectural courses at a higher rate than ever before.

Women’s Factors in Non-Registration

Some of the issues raised in the study:

  • Practice type, culture and size was a major factor in the non-registration of female subjects, with many practices requiring new employees to have gained relevant experience to complete the mandatory competencies.
  • However, some women felt disadvantaged in gaining that experience (one interviewee said that allocation of projects may be gender-based), while others described the registration process as “male dominated” and a “boys club”. Many felt that as women, they had to “prove something”, describing the environment as aggressive or alternatively patronising.
  • Personal factors were also brought up: “Women reported that the salary for graduates and the time required to prepare for registration was so demanding that it lowered their aspirational commitment to registration when there were multiple competing priorities for their time”.
  • Many female graduates felt there were no obvious benefits or purpose in registration (“no daily benefits, no salary difference, no seniority benefits,” said one participant), and observed that many others practiced without registration anyway
  • “Nappies or Natspec” – the registration process was critiqued by some interviewees for being both costly and timely, while the researchers also noted that the fear and shame of failing was a powerful factor

Men’s Factors in Non-Registration

The 16 male interviewees who were all in architectural employment but had not registered was said to have a “much less complex narrative” about factors in their non-registration. For them, registration hinged on securing the right graduate position, with many registering to “get their next job”:

  • Practice Culture and competencies – the size of firms were a critical factor, as large firms are often believed to engage specialised staff when their competencies are not covered by “CAD jockeys”. In large and small firms, it was possible to push for the project allocation that would lead to logging competences towards registration
  • Personality factors are critical in the drive for registration. Some men interviewed felt the process was weighted towards confident, outgoing candidates
  • Beliefs about registration – that registration is not important or required for a career in architecture
  • Time and costs also factored into non-registration of male architecture graduates, although unlike the female participants, the study noted that men did not report family or lifestyle factors to be influential in their decisions about registration.

The study is authored by Susan J. Shannon, Naomi Webb, Yishu Jeng and Jenna Holder from the University of Adelaide’s School of Architecture & Built Environment, and can be found HERE.

It also suggests that universities should encourage students to commence APE Logbooks while undertaking their degrees via part-time and internship roles, and to provide “Women in Architecture” networking and mentoring seminars to “enable female students to see the paths ahead to registration with strong female roles”.