Gender Equality at UNStudio
There are 7 female and 9 male members of the Board of Directors at UNStudio.
At UNStudio we firmly believe in maintaining a culture where individual talent is recognised and rewarded, regardless of gender. It is extremely important to us that no member of our team would ever feel they had less chance of promotion because of their gender. As such we actively encourage, facilitate and reward ambition across the board.
We are very aware that women are often underrepresented at management levels within architecture and that they often encounter hurdles on their career paths that their male counterparts do not. We are conscious also that these issues discourage women from joining the profession and we firmly believe that this is detrimental to the profession as a whole. As a staunch supporter of gender equality, through his teaching, the promotion of women within the studio and the putting in place of policies to facilitate this, Ben van Berkel is determined that female employees receive equal opportunities to climb the career ladder at UNStudio.
We not only have a large number of female employees who have been with the practice for many years and who have started families, we also employ a large number of couples and take steps to enable a balance between their work and family life. Maternity leave is planned with other colleagues in advance, so that on their return, employees can pick up where they left off. It is also understood that childcare is often the responsibility of both parents. This means that when somebody – male or female - needs some flexibility with their hours, or to temporarily work from home, we facilitate this and plan it based on the individual’s specific needs.
Whilst we strive to maintain and promote a culture of equal opportunity, we are however very aware that issues of gender inequality remain a concern. For this reason Caroline Bos initiated what we refer to as ‘Women’s Breakfasts’: quarterly get-togethers with invited speakers where related topics can be discussed and concerns shared. These breakfasts are also attended by men from our practice, so not only are these discussions not counter-discriminatory, we recognise that men are also affected by these issues and their input is equally valuable. On the whole, the goal of these discussions is to understand the intricacies and effects of discriminatory thinking and to make sure that we - as a practice and as an employer - are fully aware of any concerns our employees may have regarding these issues. This, we hope, will assist us to tackle gender-related concerns head on and make improvements where necessary.
So whilst we wholeheartedly applaud and agree with Dorte Mandrup’s assertion (made earlier this year on Dezeen), "I am not a female architect. I am an architect", we are also all too aware that discrimination does exist within the profession. However at UNStudio we believe that talented minds are far too valuable to waste and that perhaps the biggest challenge facing the practice is to ensure that such waste never occurs as the result of unconscious prejudices.