Today we celebrate International Women’s Day with success stories of those female leaders across architecture who are breaking boundaries and also to reflect upon the made over the last year.
Kasia Borkowska, Director of Liverpool-based architecture firm KKA, has taken the opportunity to reflect upon her own experiences within architecture. She said “in the last few years we are finally seeing a shift in construction. The industry – which includes the wider design teams as well as on-site workers – has always been male-dominated and women were definitely in the minority.
“When I started working in an architectural practice over 17 years ago, only 4% of the whole office were women – with only two of us working in architecture. Since then, this percentage has gradually increased to 35% and, we hope, continues to rise. This change is visible not only in our profession, but also across structural design, mechanical and engineering design, project management and contractors.”
Several studies report on the common factors discouraging women from joining the profession – but also deciding to leave – were the wage gap, unsocial working hours, gender discrimination, lack of respect for the roles and authority of women in architectural practice and childcare.
Borkowska believes that the only way to encourage more young girls into this industry is to see more women in management roles. She added “we are more than capable to undertake those roles but are often not considered due to outdated stereotypes of management figures or personal circumstance. During my upbringing, I was always told that I can achieve anything, and my gender is not a weakness, but strength. This is my life mantra and I hope that I can inspire a younger generation of women to look further, and aim higher, than established social preconceptions.”
Having equal representation for women in a firm will improve the entire triple bottom line of social, economic and environmental value. A 2014 study completed by Wake Forest University found organisations with more women on their boards are more financially stable and less prone to excessive risk-taking.
Also, having more women in management roles leads to higher employee engagement and a more widespread sense that the organisation cares about it staff. Borkowska echoed this point, noting “I love working with women. Having more women in management positions today creates an inclusive working environment that has a great effect on all genders! We are all becoming more open, tolerant and symbiotic. Only now we can talk about real cooperation!”
After completing a management buyout of KKA in July 2021, Kasia Borkowska became one of two directors, alongside Chris Long. KKA was launched over 70 years ago and specialises across sport, retail, hospitality and student accommodation, with the firm deeply embedded within a number of high profile projects this year, including the Ashton Gate Sporting Quarter in Bristol, Manchester’s First Street development and the Hilton Garden Inn hotel at Silverstone.