RIAS defended over all-male line-up row
Female architects have defended the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland after the line-up at its annual conference drew criticism for lacking any women.
Westminster School of Architecture dean Jeremy Till and Archigram founder Peter Cook were among those to condemn the organisation after its all-male line-up was criticised in a letter written by Konishi Gaffney director Kieran Gaffney.
RIAS secretary Neil Baxter wrote to Gaffney explaining that the organisation did not operate a policy of positive discrimination. He added that several female architects were approached to appear at the event but were unable to attend.
His response was backed by Kathryn Findlay of Ushida Findlay Architects who said she was approached to speak, but was already booked to give a lecture in Australia. “Not only did they ask me to speak this year, they asked me last year and the year before,” she said.
“Neil did ask me but not because I’m a woman. That’s not how he operates. He asked me because he felt I have something interesting to say.”
Jane Meneely, chairman of the Central Scotland branch of Women in Property and senior associate at Hypostyle Architects in Glasgow, said she would not want to see female speakers booked because of their gender.
“Women certainly don’t want to be seen as part of a gender tick-box exercise,” she said. “This should be about merit, professionalism, qualification and achievement, presumably exactly the same criteria that you would apply to a man as a woman.”
Others pointed to the lack of senior women in the wider industry. Pam Heap, partner at Stark Partnership, said: “There just tends not to be many women at director or partner level. I don’t think it would be right to go out and try and get female architects involved just for the sake of it.”
Neil Baxter, secretary at the RIAS, told BD: “We asked a number of women not because of their gender but because of what they have done.
“On the basis they couldn’t come, should we invite other women until we get the required criteria? I honestly don’t think it’s appropriate to organise anything on that basis.”