Gender Equity Discussion in WA

1 April 2019

There was standing room only at the ACA’s recent Data at Work event in Fremantle, which combined a presentation of Parlour’s most recent data analysis with a panel discussion about future action and advocacy. Emma Brain reports.

1 - Data at Work - Malcolm

ACA – WA President Malcolm Jones introduces the Data at Work event.

On 21 March at a sell-out event at Fremantle’s Notre Dame University, Dr Gill Matthewson, co-founder of Parlour and architectural educator and researcher at Monash University, presented Data at Work, her research into women’s participation rates in architecture.

A copy of the Parlour Census Report 2001–2016 is available through Parlour, so we won’t go into too much detail. Suffice to say that a collective gulp was heard across the audience as Gill downloaded the stats.

6 - Data at Work - Gill presentation

Gill Matthewson presents the alarming statistics of the Parlour Census Report 2001–2016.

2 - Data at Work panel

ACA – WA Vice President Michael Gay speaks on the panel, with facilitator Robyn Creagh on right.

6 - Data at Work panel2

The Data at Work panel (from left) Gill Matthewson, Taffy Mawire, Kate Fitzgerald, Emma Williamson and Michael Gay.

Gill’s presentation was followed by a panel conversation between Emma Williamson, Director at The Fulcrum Agency; Michael Gay, Director at MSG Architecture; Kate Fitzgerald, Director at Whispering Smith; and Taffy Mawire, Project Engineer at Shape.

Here’s an overview of some of the key comments to come out of Gill’s presentation and the panel discussion that followed:

  • It’s time the profession broadly acknowledged that a gender balance improves architecture’s ability to address contemporary issues.
  • Emma Williamson argued that this is an issue for the profession, not just women. As a profession of problem solvers, we’ve been slow to tackle the problem of needing to work part-time.
  • Michael Gay was more optimistic. He suggested that we are at a crossroads, with a new way of thinking slowing emerging.
  • What is our biggest disgrace? According to Kate Fitzgerald, it’s the 7% pay discrepancy between female and male graduates. She encouraged all women to go into wage discussions and reviews armed with figures and stats provided by organisations like Parlour.
  • Taffy Mawire, Project Engineer, expressed shock at the stats – she had thought gender inequality only existed in construction.
  • Women require more credentials to progress than men. Emma Williamson spoke strongly of the need to go through the process of registration before having children. This qualification goes a long way in widening your workplace choices.
  • Alarmingly, it’s not just women with children whose career progression is affected.
  • Gill Matthewson suggested that a good way forward for some women, particularly those working part-time, was to find a niche, to avoid presenting as another project architect, and to specialise.
  • Taffy Mawire discussed the flexible working plans offered by her employer that allow everyone – not just women – to have a conversation about a working pattern that meets their needs.
  • Taffy and Emma also spoke about the benefit of finding a great mentor – someone who builds confidence and is your champion.
  • Kate Fitzgerald described her efforts in building a non-hierarchical office (hear more about that here). Finally, she stated that women need to insert themselves in a place where the female voice is largely missing.
  • Collectively, the panel acknowledged the huge difference Parlour has made to the architecture profession. Gender is no longer something to be dismissed.

Thank you to Dr Robyn Creagh from Notre Dame University for facilitating the conversation and to the University for allowing us to use the fantastic heritage bar in the School of Arts and Science as our venue. Thanks also to Parlour partner AWS and the Australian Institute of Architects.


5 - Data at Work - Gill

Former and current members of the Institute’s National Committee for Gender Equity Emma Williamson, Gill Matthewson and Kellie McGivern catch up after the presentation.


Emma Brain is the Executive Officer of the ACA – WA and Head of Communications at The Fulcrum Agency.

All images by Kelsey Jovanou.