#MeToo Meets Architecture

Two-thirds of architects experience sexual harassment, new survey says

A new survey on the architecture industry details sexual harassment in the workplace. Shown here: Women's March Seattle (Courtesy Flickr)

A new survey delves into the impact of sexual harassment in the fields of design, construction, architecture, and engineering. Coming on the heels of this year’s news surrounding Richard Meier and the “Shitty Architecture Men” listArchitectural Record and Engineering News-Record (ENR) conducted a survey by interviewing over 1,200 architects on their experiences with inappropriate workplace behavior.

According to the study, roughly two-thirds of all architects surveyed have experienced sexual harassment in the workplace. Women composed over two-thirds of the respondents, where 85 percent reported having been harassed at some point while at their job. Around 65 percent of those who alleged harassment described it as inappropriate jokes, questions, or personal requests. Almost 30 percent experienced sexual assault in the form of inappropriate physical contact.

Approximately 600 architects took our survey. Women accounted for just over two-thirds of participants. (Courtesy Architectural Record)

One woman working in a small firm in the Midwest was asked for a “kiss goodnight” from her boss when alone one night at the office. She lost her job for declining. While her experience is disturbing, it is far from uncommon. According to Architectural Record, about 65 percent of workers reported the harassment to either a colleague, manager, or human resources specialist, while 25 percent reportedly never acted nor spoke publicly about the incident. Meanwhile, less than one percent of victims filed a lawsuit or claim with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Architectural Record also reported that nearly 75 percent of architects have either witnessed sexual harassment firsthand or heard about an incident through a coworker, yet the issue was still not being taken seriously by many members of the patriarchal industry. A woman in the Southeast even recalled her male colleagues telling her to “lighten up” and “enjoy the attention” after she confronted them about their offensive and inappropriate sexual remarks. Many of those surveyed even felt that those in leadership within the architectural profession aren’t listening to their concerns. Two-thirds said leadership organizations haven’t properly addressed sexual harassment yet. The American Institute of Architects (AIA) has only recently enacted their new Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct policy.

Since the rise to prominence of the #MeToo movement, women’s social, legal, and economic rights have continued to rise, helping transform gender roles in the United States. Nonetheless, gender double standards and gender inequality still persist. For the architectural community, the allegations against Meier triggered the acknowledgment of gender-based harassment in the workplace, an issue that the male-dominated profession has struggled with for decades.

Related Stories