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In 1980, when Marsha Maytum was a fledgling designer at the San Francisco architecture firm EHDD, the majority of women on construction sites were centerfolds. Maytum, now a partner at the San Francisco practice Leddy Maytum Stacy Architects, made that discovery during one of the first job-site visits of her career. “I remember walking into the trailer where the meeting was supposed to occur, and there were inappropriate pictures up,” she says. “I had to ask them to take them down.” We are both laughing, in part to get through the awkward silence, because it really wasn’t funny at the time, when Maytum was 25 and the only woman in the room. “People’s awareness of how that impacts situations—no one was even conscious of it,” she says.
Nearly 35 years later, progress has been measurable but mixed. Women make up 25 percent of architecture staff in the U.S., though they now earn 42 percent of the architecture degrees. In 2004, Zaha Hadid became the first woman to win the Pritzker Prize, the profession’s top honor, followed in 2010 by Kazuyo Sejima of SANAA, who won with her partner, Ryue Nishizawa. (Two years later, the jury regressed and honored Wang Shu without his wife and partner, Lu Wenyu, an echo of Denise Scott Brown’s exclusion from the 1991 award to her partner and husband, Robert Venturi.)