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Architect, Who Happens to be a Woman, not a Woman Architect

26 Jun 2019
Image Credit: Amir Azadeh
Architectural Credit: N/A
After graduating from university in 1979, I travelled across the country. In Vancouver, I needed to find a job. I had seen a building on the cover of Canadian Architect and it spoke to me, so I thought I would try to get work with that architect. This was before the internet and cell phones, so I walked into his office, without an appointment, resumé and portfolio in hand.
I asked to speak to the principal of the firm. He was busy, and I was asked to come back in an hour. It turned out the firm was hiring, and he and his partner met with me. The interview went well! I felt like it was a good fit—until they offered me the job, with the caveat that they wanted to hire a woman because it would be good for office morale. I said thank you very much, but I couldn’t accept the job. I didn’t want to be hired because I was a woman, but rather because I was the best candidate for the job. I packed my bags and went back to Toronto.
A couple of weeks later, I got a call from the architect in question. He had interviewed many other candidates and had concluded that I was best person for the position. Would I reconsider working for them?
Today, I still feel the same way. I am an architect who happens to be woman, not a “woman architect.” When are men referred to as “men architects”? Never.
As president of the OAA, I like to think I got the job because I was the best candidate for the position—not because I was a woman. And yet, many people still feel a need to comment on the fact that I am a “woman president.” I am quite sure that the last three presidents were not referred to as “men presidents,” or congratulated on being a “man president.” They were accepted as the president with no gender qualifiers attached.
I find it curious that in spite of the strides that have been made in the profession over the past 40 years, with equal numbers of male and female students graduating from architectural programs today (compared to 15% women when I graduated), we still need to differentiate females as “women architects” rather than allowing them to be architects. Let’s all strive to drop the gender references when talking about those in our profession.

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