Introducing the Women in Landscape Architecture PPN’s Gender Equity Guide

by TJ Marston, ASLA

The 2019 Women in Landscape Architecture Walk in San Diego, during the ASLA Conference on Landscape Architecture. / images: ASLA

The Women in Landscape Architecture Professional Practice Network’s Gender Equity Guide: A Toolkit for Landscape Architects

Would you like to improve gender equity in your workplace?

The American Society of Landscape Architects’ Women in Landscape Architecture Professional Practice Network (WILA PPN) leadership team has crafted a series of posts that will appear here on The Field over the course of March, Women’s History Month, providing tools, tips, and resources for firms and individuals looking to tackle gender inequity in their workplace.

This information will then be compiled as a downloadable PDF, available on the WILA PPN’s Resources page.

Why is the WILA PPN leadership team providing this guide?

While women are entering our field at unprecedented rates, articles like “The Big Time. The Bigger Time.” in Landscape Architecture Magazine last April showed us that we still have work to do to support the advancement of women in our profession.

As Co-Chair of the WILA PPN, an employer, educator, gender equity advocate, and researcher, I regularly discuss problems facing women in the workplace with leaders in our profession as well as emerging professionals. I often get the question, “What can I do in my workplace?” The Gender Equity Guide gives you the tools and resources you need to take action!

This guide is for anyone looking to take actionable steps towards change at any scale. We picked topics we considered most relevant to the typical firm and resources we found interesting and helpful in our own research. We have no financial connection to the individuals or organizations that provide the tools or resources. Whether you are an employee looking to approach the topic with your supervisor or a business owner, there is information here that anyone can use as a starting point for change in their place of work.

What problems will be addressed in the guide?

The guide addresses four important workplace issues that affect gender equity in landscape architecture: pay equity, flexibility, caregiving, and discrimination. (Please note: these topics are just a start; be on the lookout for future additions.) Below is a brief synopsis of why we think these issues matter in the workplace and a sneak peek of what’s to come in our guide:

Pay Equity: Equal pay for equal work is the most obvious way we can support women in our industry. In architecture, men make 20% more than women in leadership roles. [1] This pay gap derails the path toward leadership for most women. In our guide, we will be curating multiple tools and resources for you to understand equity in your workplace pay structure and how you can take actionable steps to improve it. We are excited to share a free assessment tool so any firm, regardless of size and resources, can understand if they have gender pay equity in their workplace.

Flexibility: A lack of flexibility is a major reason why women leave the workforce, playing a key role in gender inequity across the profession. [2] The problem is only expected to worsen, according to a recent Harvard study stating, “the loss of skilled women to take care of family from the workforce could exacerbate labor shortages.” [4] With a growing number of women entering our profession, the demand for flexibility will only increase as we work to retain talent. In our guide, we will share resources to help you assess whether your workplace truly meets the flexibility needs of your employees and provide tools that teach you how to build a structured flexibility system into your workplace.

Caregiving: According to a 2019 article from The Wall Street Journal, one in six people spend an average of 20 hours every week taking care of a sick or elderly family member. Caregiving affects both genders, but it affects women across careers disproportionately. An estimated 43% of highly qualified women leave work when they have children. In contrast, only 28% of men have ever had to reduce their working hours to meet their family’s needs. [4]

Recent studies show that 70% of women who leave work to help take care of family want to work, but don’t feel like they have the choice to work and still meet the caregiving demands within their family. [5] This explains why a 2017 architecture study published in the Architectural Review found that 60% of women said that having children would have a detrimental effect on their careers. [1] Our guide will include tips for how to support caregivers in your office and links to recent research which is uncovering how parenthood changes our brains to become better leaders—debunking common myths about the value of caregiving.

Discrimination: According to recent studies in architecture, nearly one in three women experience sexual discrimination in their current place of work and that discrimination is mainly perpetrated by men (83%). Discrimination includes being ignored, undermined, or given impossible tasks, but also includes indirect offenses like office “banter” which is often seen as harmless, but is in fact humiliating. These offenses do not always come from colleagues. Clients are to blame for nearly one third of women who experienced sexual discrimination. [1] As women in landscape architecture, we know this problem exists in our profession. With workplaces like these, why would women stay? Our guide will offer some important tips for how to build a better workplace for everyone along with supporting tools and resources.

How should I use the guide?

We look at this guide as a starting point for tackling gender equity in every workplace in landscape architecture. If you are a leader or an employee, we hope that you read through the guide and discuss with your leadership what steps you could take to tackle gender inequity in your workplace.

Then, we want your feedback! The guide is meant to evolve. The WILA PPN leadership team is committed to editing this guide with improved information going forward. We need your help, so please stay tuned for information on how to provide feedback. We are counting on you to help us build a more equitable profession for everyone.

Sources:

  1. Bruce Tether. “How architecture cheats women: results of the 2017 Women in Architecture survey revealed.” The Architectural Review, February 27, 2017.
  2. The Future is Flexible: The Importance of Flexibility in the Modern Workplace.” p.16. Werk Enterprises Inc, 2019.
  3. Andrea Loubier. “Gender and Work: The Power of Flexibility.” Forbes, June 8, 2017.
  4. David Harrison. “Employers Need to Address ‘Caregiving Crisis,’ Study Finds.” The Wall Street Journal, January 16, 2019.
  5. The Future is Flexible: The Importance of Flexibility in the Modern Workplace.” p.29. Werk Enterprises Inc, 2019.

TJ Marston, ASLA, is Founding Principal at PLOT Studio, a faculty member at Florida International University, Co-Principal Investigator for the VELA (Visualizing Equity in Landscape Architecture) Project, and Co-Chair of ASLA’s Women in Landscape Architecture Professional Practice Network (WILA PPN).

ASLA Celebrates Women’s History Month: learn more about the women who’ve shaped landscape architecture and how ASLA encourages women leaders. Special events planned for this month include the March 5 ASLA Online Learning webinar Allies, Advocates, and Stakeholders: Building Up Women in Landscape Architecture – 1.0 PDH (LA CES/non-HSW). Webinar registration is free for all ASLA members.

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