Barbara Alfors Coaching and Consulting

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Why Do We Have So Far to Go?

Working While Woman

I started looking into women’s issues in architecture, and what I found mirrors a lot of the problems in our culture – not just for women, but for people of color (PoC), LGBTQ, disabled, and other people who don’t fit the stereotypical image of successful people in a variety of occupations.

There has been a lot of coverage of the pay gap between average men’s and women’s salaries. People like to diminish the importance of this by suggesting that it’s because women often take maternity leave, or don’t work as many hours after having children and so aren’t at the same experience level. This might explain some of the pay gap in a general population study. However, a San Francisco AIA committee called Equity by Design did a study indicating that in architecture the gap holds true when comparing equal job titles and equal experience levels, and actually increases at greater experience levels.1

In researching further I came across an article claiming that “the pay gap could be closed by 2044 instead of 2080 if we do these three things!”2  I was appalled (2080!?), but also encouraged at the prospect of actually closing the gap.

Until I read it.

Their suggestions:

1. Digital fluency, such as using social media to network and online banking.
2. Women should get jobs in higher-paying fields.
3. Tech immersion: take a coding course!

Huh. None of these seems likely to be the problem for women professionals.

The article was based on the consulting firm Accenture’s study of “developed markets,” so perhaps I’m being unfair trying to look at these suggestions through the lens of professional women. But the reality is that pay gaps and promotion gaps persist in professional and tech fields, for both women and PoC. Issues such as workplace harassment are driving women from tech and science professions, and the cognitive bias that women and PoC just aren’t as good at certain tasks (such as leadership or coding) lead to lower rates of promotion. Unfortunately the fact is that women and PoC have to work harder and never make mistakes, and they still aren’t perceived to be as effective as white men.3

There are so many more issues to unpack here that I couldn’t possibly address them all. But I’ll follow up on this in a future post with some thoughts on what we can start to do about it. Let me know your thoughts or experiences in the comments!

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1 Comment

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