Where have all the architects gone?

By Ileana Schinder

I am an architect. I am an immigrant. I am a mom. I am a business owner.

My name is Ileana Schinder, I am from Argentina and I live in Washington, DC. I want to tell the good, the great and the advantages of being an architect today in the United States.

I started my own business in 2014 right when my son turned 1. I gave up the stability of working for big firms because I couldn’t have it all. Despite the years of study and practice, architects don’t get paid maternity leave, or family leave for that matter. After 6 years of college, 1 year of graduate school, 3 years of internship and receiving my architecture license, I stared as the Human Resources rep told me:

-No, you don’t get paid at all. Also, the time that your husband takes off, comes off your family leave as well.

(At the time, my husband and I worked for the same firm).

So I looked around. Few women architects were managers, less than a few were principals, less than less than a few were owners of large architecture firms. Despite our efforts, architects have been alone for too long. We were gone. We were not there.

At most, we are lucky because we have a private room to pump breast-milk while our kids are watched by someone else. Most of us get no flex time and few alternatives to work from home. Most of us lose work opportunities because we can’t work late, travel or be on call at all times.

We are alone because we can’t count on the fathers –many of which are also architects-, to be equal partners in parenting. Architects dads get no (or minimal) paid parental leave. No matter how complicated the birth of the child had been, no matter the health of the mom may be. The American Institute of Architects has completed some surveys that illustrate that reality. The results were so discouraging and close to my life that I threw out the magazine where the results were published.

Where are we? Where are the women architects? Where are the business owners?

We are here! Working incredibly hard, tending to our clients, accounts, income, and juggling the never-gonna-happen life-work-balance.

We are here, counting on our partners, families and friends but tired of waiting for the tide to turn in our favor. And in 2016 still hasn’t.

And I don’t know why still hasn’t. Maybe because it’s not a woman problem but a family problem. Maybe because moms and dads (and daughters and sons) need the time and money to care for family members that need them, young and old. Only the day that the Human Resources Department of each firm allows parents to take equal time off to bond, to engage and to care for each other will the tides slowly refreshingly change.

Only then all women architects will be able to raise their hands and say “I am here!” when someone asks, “where have all the women architect gone?”

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