Amidst the rollercoaster that was 2021, six team members at Cera Stribley passed the rigorous registration process to own the title ‘architect’. These six women – Katherine McDonald, Laura Ng, Miranda Keogh, Felicia Foo, Lucy Brommeyer and Ziyi Liu – are not only donning that title with pride, they are adding their weight and talent to an industry that is slowly but surely seeing more women passing through the ranks.
“It was definitely a rewarding feeling to pass the final hurdle and be able to officially call yourself an ‘architect’ at the end of the process, and I was quite lucky to go through the registration process with some of my favourite colleagues as a support system,” says Katherine. “There were quite a lot of females going through the registration process in our intake, it was encouraging to see so many faces throughout the zoom sessions and to learn about everyone’s different experiences and backgrounds.”
A report, “Industry Profile: The Profession of Architecture in Australia”, by the Architects Accreditation Council of Australia published in 2018 highlighted that 31 per cent of women working in architecture were female – up from 28 per cent in 2011. Not a giant leap, but progress nonetheless. In the last year the Australian Institute of Architects (AIA) has also noted an increase in female participation.
“Generally, in the last year there has been slight base improvement both nationally and across chapters,” says National Policy & Advocacy Manager, Beata Davey. Beata did highlight that this figure does not represent all architects or students, but members of the Institute.
It’s not that architecture has been late to the gender-equality party – it’s a systemic issue that is not industry neutral. Having said that, as architecture is nestled within the building and construction realm there is a heavily masculine veil over it.
“To be honest – working at Cera Stribley, I don’t really feel the divide between male and female because more than half the office here is female and we are all just ‘architects’,” Lucy says. “Where I do feel a divide is when we are working with builders on-site and in the construction industry in general … But I love that we are promoting and adding more females into the construction industry from our field, as I’m sure it will give confidence to other women who are wanting to enter the industry, whether it be in architecture or other construction related fields.”
A 2021 Australian Bureau of Statistics study, “Education and Work, Australia”, found that there is a large gender split between architecture and building students: 24 per cent women to 76 per cent men. Though, for another perspective to those statistics (which encompass the whole industry), Ziyi, who is a tutor at the University of Melbourne, has noticed more women studying architecture.
“I can see a lot more female students in architecture at the university,” she says. Though she does go on to note that this does not necessarily translate into the professional realm. “The proportion of female architects in the industry appears to be declining after graduation.”
Not only do the six newly minted architects represent a positive shift in the gender divide for architecture professionals – they highlight the power of a strong team. Together they supported each other through the registration process, morally and professionally.
“The best part was being part of a group at Cera Stribley all going through the process at the same time – we could always share our concerns/run through practice questions and have study group sessions,” Miranda says.
And when a bit more expertise was needed, the senior ranks of Cera Stribley were on-hand as a brains trust for the up-and-comers.
“I had a lot of help from senior architects in Cera Stribley to clarify some of my queries on more technical questions or various hypothetical scenarios which they have more experience on,” Felicia says.
And now that they’re through the other end of the process, what lies ahead?
“One of the nicest parts [of being registered] is being able to call yourself an architect. Throughout my career I have received both formal and informal mentoring from many talented architects and designers (of all genders) in the industry. As a registered architect, I hope to ‘pay it forward’ and share my knowledge and experiences with other young professionals who are starting out,” says Laura.
Exciting times ahead for these six fresh new faces and the industry itself.