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Paths to Women Leadership in Sustainable Architecture Education

Liqun Bi, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


According to the US National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB) 2017 report, female students comprise about 50% of the student population in architecture programs. Many of them gravitate to sustainability areas in their terminal projects. The 2017 National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB) reported that women earned architect license almost 10 months sooner than men, 36% of new architects are women. However, when looking at the executive leadership team, females comprise only 10% of the leadership population, in presidents and senior partners, at the 100 biggest international firms (Fairs, 2017). Considering the potential candidate population of women in green building fields, they are largely underrepresented. Candice (2010) pointed out that the lack of progress on gender equality may be at the heart of the failure to advance on sustainable development. Since 2003, several researchers (e.g., Graft-Johnson, 2003; Sheng, Pitts, 2015, 2018) have studied why women leave architecture. This qualitative study aimed to discover insight into the leadership development journey of women focusing on sustainable architecture education, and what they use as coping strategies. Through coding analysis of interviews of five successful women executives in architecture schools, three themes of Hard Work or “Working super hard,” Conscientious Decisions or “Making conscientious decisions,” and Support Network or “Supportive partner is the key,” were generated. Insights from their stories may assist aspiring women candidates to better prepare for their career advancements. The research results illustrated that the inner motivation of “working super hard” is the foundational factor that all the women leader participants repeatedly claimed. These women emphasized that the work ethic of their mothers was a driving force in their quest for success in green architecture. Furthermore, although participants in this study expressed no belief in glass ceilings, they confronted implicit bias on a daily base. Compared to men, their women colleagues tended to concentrate on family responsibilities over career advancement; women chose to reduce job load returning to part-time involvement, or even terminating their careers. These women leaders deferred the first childbirth and counted on a supportive partner to share the dependent responsibilities.

Subject Area

Educational leadership|Womens studies|Architecture

Recommended Citation

Bi, Liqun, "Paths to Women Leadership in Sustainable Architecture Education" (2019). ETD collection for University of Nebraska-Lincoln. AAI13862032.