Hannah Wooller: Gender Equality and Diversity in Architecture (Displacers S1:E6)


I remember when there was no building and then there was a massive hole and then there was a building site and then there was a building and I remember, when the hoardings were up they had, like, peep holes through the hoardings or you could peep through and I remember looking through when the, just when the foundations were going in and thinking someone has decided what that building is going to look like in a few months time, somebody is gonna be, this is making my hair it makes my scalp tingle just thinking about that moment but thinking someone knows what the building there is going to look like they have imagined the floors because I thought it was going to be a tall building I had imagined the floors and the escalators and how people are going to get around and someone knows what the future looks like and that’s a job and I remember that moment and from then on, that was all I wanted to do. I truly believe that the built environment is such a huge factor in societal wellbeing and it’s important that people who really care about it, do it. Architecture is the kind of profession that if you let yourself go into there is so much it can absorb every single bit of you. I am an architect because there is no better feeling than ordering the world in a beautiful drawing. I do this job because I believe the built environment should be as good, sustainable and beautiful as it is possible for it to be. I do this job in Norwich because here, I can do all of those things and live a whole life. It’s really important that I am where I am because role modelling is a very contentious subject because actually it’s a lot more about setting up structure for women to be here being a role model and being visible being a woman at this level is important so that people can know it’s just normal and that’s what I just it’s not special it’s just normal that women can do this job at this level because women are perfectly capable of doing the job at this level. But the reality is that life makes it difficult for women to get to this level and there are a few things there are many levels in architecture which makes it particular hard in architecture one is that it is quite difficult to be part time and be a senior architect because you are having to be across many projects and so what we do here is we have a very flexible working arrangement to try and get which allows both men to stay in work when they have young children but also encourage women to take as long as they need to come back into the profession so people aren’t lost they’re not lost to teaching they’re not lost to building control they’re not lost at all of the surrounding policy professions which can handle part time working much better and I’m not going to pretend we’ve solved it because it is a huge challenge but we are and the fact that Sian and me are so high in the practice means we are fighting for those things we are fighting all the time to make sure that the women coming through the practice can come can get the equal chance. There is something in design which is still it’s something to do with the objectivity / subjectivity position which is that women through societal pressure, societal norms, believe that their view is subjective and men have a greater view that their view is objective that they know what good design is whereas women think that that’s what I think good design is it’s much easier to have what I think disassembled than it is the truth disassembled. The other thing is that the whole setup of consultant teams around the built environment is gendered. Often you will be in meetings and still you will only be one woman sitting there it’s absolutely ridiculous, in fact farcical that you can have professions that are not equally representative it’s imperative for a good societal design that all members of that society contribute to that profession. I mean you can’t have one tiny sector designing everybody else’s world it’s just not right. And a plurality of views adds to the complex wonder that makes up our world and you need all of those represented. The other thing in, which is more challenging than I thought, is class. Is that actually having influence and having friends of influence really matters. Social mobility is a real issue. And we see that at all levels. So we see it at meeting level, at work coming in level, we see it at Part 1 level, so we see the difference in confidence between the Part 1’s that we have come in and how much time and investment we have to bring just people’s belief in themselves up and I find it really shocking that’s probably more shocking than I found the gender. I would really like to be able to look back in not that long in maybe seven years, something like that and look at from the position of running a company which treats its employees the way that I think that businesses should be able to so I would like us to be in the position of enabling all of the people here to realise the wonder of their creativity and their contribution on a daily basis. So it’s about running a successful company to enable us to empower our staff to have their best life.

1 thought on “Hannah Wooller: Gender Equality and Diversity in Architecture (Displacers S1:E6)

  1. Hannah Wooller is an extremely inspiring architect. Please share this video to help it contribute to the discussion around gender quality and diversity in the workplace.

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