Towards a New Architecture: It’s Parental, Not Maternal

SARAH KASPER AND JOHN KLEINSCHMIDT, M.ARCH I 2016

 

On Monday evening, martini-sippers at the YSOA Career Services recruitment reception were offered coasters for their beverages. In the spirit of dispensing career advice, the back of each coaster listed a few questions – screen printed by hand in Yale blue – for job-seekers to ask their interviewers:

 

  • How many of your partners are female?

 

  • How many of those partners have children?
  • What is your parental leave structure?
  • Do all genders make use of this structure?

 

 

This boozy intersection between academy and practice kicked off a week in which students will field many, many questions about their professional ambitions. From a school with approximate gender parity and success based on merit, students will enter a profession where the ramifications of taking time off to start a family hold women back from becoming partners and principals. Why not supply students with a few pointed questions to ask their future employers? The firms recruiting at YSOA are at the top of the profession and are therefore perfectly positioned to lead this conversation.

 

Earlier this year, an Architectural Review survey revealed that 75% of women in architecture are childless– a number well below normal birth rates. For all women with master’s degrees, that number is 22% (Pew Research Center). Clearly, something is not working. Unless parental leave is shared by all genders, childbirth will continue to pull women out of the workforce and needlessly make having kids amount to a professional competitive disadvantage. Countries encouraging both parents to take leave have higher female labor participation rates and more women returning to the workforce after childbirth. Simply put, everyone should take time off when they become a parent. We need to get used to saying parental leave, not maternity leave.

 

Equitable child care leave is not a silver bullet for gender disparity in architecture, but it is simple, actionable, and easy to talk about. It’s parental.