Claudia Smith first noticed the gender problem when she was at university.
She had just started architecture – joining the roughly 40 per cent cohort of female architect students today – and decided to enrol in a special summer subject that all her male friends raved about: a travel tour of ancient architectural spaces, including traditional Chinese gardens and buildings, that attracts hundreds of aspiring architects annually.
“I was told it was plenty of fun where you partied at night and worked hard during the day,” she says. “Everyone who took it got a distinction or high distinctions basically without lifting a finger.”
And this turned out to be true – but only if you were a male.
The teacher was an older professor mainly involved in research, and the class was his passion: travel, youth and mentoring future architectural leaders.
“From the beginning, there was very obvious favouritism for the male students,” Smith says. “The female students were pretty much invisible to the professor, and it was clear that he was only interested in getting to know the boys.”
To date, the class was the only credit Smith received during her degree. All the other students – bar the other female in the class – were awarded a minimum distinction.
“He also offered to pay, in full, for the trips of two male students afterwards, just to enjoy their company. The guys, who are my friends, found it a bit bizarre, this special treatment they were getting, and didn’t end up going,” Smith says. […]