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Marraum Architects04-Jul-2024 11:56:005 min read


The world of architecture has long been perceived as a male-dominated field. However, the contributions of women in architecture are significant and transformative. From trailblazing figures like Zaha Hadid and MJ Long to the increasing presence of female architects today, women's impact on architecture continues to grow. In this blog, we'll explore the history, challenges, and achievements of women in architecture, focusing on five key areas: historical contributions, modern advancements, notable figures, gender disparities, and the future of women in the industry. Let's delve into the inspiring journey of women in architecture and discover how they are reshaping the built environment.

Historical contributions of women in architecture

Women have been involved in architecture for centuries, though their contributions were often overlooked or credited to male counterparts. Despite these challenges, many women made significant impacts on the field, often working behind the scenes or under pseudonyms.

Pioneering women architects

In the 19th and early 20th centuries, women like Marion Mahony Griffin, one of the first licensed female architects, and Ethel Charles, the first woman admitted to the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), paved the way for future generations. Their designs and contributions to architectural projects showcased their talent and resilience. Unable to secure commissions for commercial projects Ethel Charles, along with her sister Bessie, focused on mainly domestic architecture including a number of projects in and around Falmouth. 

Unrecognised achievements

Many women worked in collaboration with their architect husbands, with their contributions often uncredited. For instance, Denise Scott Brown’s work alongside her husband Robert Venturi was crucial to their firm's success, yet she was frequently overshadowed.

The early struggles and successes of these women set the stage for future advancements, highlighting the importance of recognising and celebrating their contributions to architecture.




Modern advancements and increasing presence

The modern era has seen a significant increase in the presence and recognition of women in architecture. With more women entering the field and gaining leadership roles, the architectural landscape is gradually becoming more diverse and inclusive.

Education and professional growth

More women are pursuing architectural education and careers than ever before. Institutions are now fostering environments that encourage female participation and leadership in architecture.

Representation in professional organisations

Organisations like the International Union of Architects (UIA) and RIBA are actively promoting gender equality and supporting women architects through various initiatives and awards.

These advancements signify a positive shift towards gender parity in architecture, though there is still much work to be done to achieve true equality.




Notable figures: Zaha Hadid and MJ Long

Two of the most influential and renowned female architects are Zaha Hadid and MJ Long. Their groundbreaking designs and pioneering spirits have left lastly marks on the field of architecture.

Zaha Hadid's legacy

Born in Iraq, Zaha Hadid became the first woman to receive the Pritzker Architecture Prize, often referred to as the Nobel Prize of architecture. Her iconic works, such as the London Aquatics Centre and the Guangzhou Opera House, are celebrated for their innovative forms and futuristic designs. Hadid's success has inspired countless women to pursue careers in architecture. Her story highlights the importance of determination, creativity, and breaking barriers in a traditionally European male-dominated industry.

MJ Long's impact

Mary Jane Long, known as MJ Long, was an American-born British architect who made significant contributions to architecture in the UK. She is best known for her work on the British Library in London, a project she worked on with her husband, Sir Colin St John Wilson. Long’s designs are characterised by their attention to detail and user-friendly spaces. In addition to the British Library, she worked on notable projects such as the National Maritime Museum in Falmouth and the restoration of the Porthmeor Studios in St Ives. Long’s work is celebrated for its sensitivity to local context and innovative use of space.



Gender disparities and challenges

Despite the progress made, women in architecture still face significant challenges and disparities compared to their male counterparts.

Underrepresentation in leadership

While more women are entering the field, they are still underrepresented in senior and leadership positions. This disparity is evident in the relatively low number of female partners in major architectural firms.

Work-life balance and discrimination

Women often face challenges related to work-life balance, particularly in a demanding profession like architecture. Additionally, discrimination and bias can hinder their career progression, making it crucial to address these issues through supportive policies and cultural change.

Understanding and addressing these challenges is essential for creating a more equitable and supportive environment for women in architecture.

The future of women in architecture

The future of women in architecture looks promising, with continued efforts to promote gender equality and support female architects at all stages of their careers.

Encouraging young women

Initiatives aimed at encouraging young women to pursue architecture are crucial. Mentorship programs, scholarships, and outreach activities can help inspire the next generation of female architects.

Promoting inclusivity

Architectural firms and organisations must continue to prioritise diversity and inclusivity, ensuring that women have equal opportunities for growth and advancement. This includes fostering a supportive workplace culture and addressing any systemic barriers to equality.

As more women rise to prominent positions in architecture, they will continue to influence and shape the built environment, bringing fresh perspectives and innovative ideas to the forefront.

What does it mean for Marraum?

At Marraum, we are proud to champion gender equality in the architectural industry. With 50% of our team being women, we exemplify the potential for gender parity in architecture. Our diverse team includes women in roles such as business owner, architect, architectural assistant, and office manager. This balanced representation enhances our creativity, collaboration, and the quality of our projects.

Our commitment to equality

We believe that a diverse team brings a wealth of perspectives and ideas, driving innovation and excellence in our work. By supporting women at all levels of our organisation, we are contributing to a more inclusive and equitable industry.



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