Where Are the Women Architects? Look To These Organizations

Resources for Women in Architecture and Related Professions

A patience young woman excitedly gazing at a built architectural model
Is there a place for women in architecture?. Photo by PeopleImages/DigitalVision Collection/Getty Images

Women architects are all around us, yet they are often invisible. Architecture may be a traditionally male-dominated profession, but without women architects, our world would look a whole lot different. Here, you'll find information about the role of women designers in history, links to biographies of women you may not have heard of, and important organizations devoted to helping women in the fields of architecture, design, engineering, and construction.

Lack of Recognition

Juries for prestigious awards such as the Pritzker Architecture Prize and the AIA Gold Medal have tended to choose men, even when female collaborators have shared equally in their architectural projects. Since the first AIA Gold Medal was presented in 1907, only one woman has won. In 2014, nearly fifty years after her death, the long-ignored California architect Julia Morgan (1872-1957) was named an AIA Gold Medal Laureate.

Women architects rarely receive headline-grabbing commissions like the World Trade Center buildings in Lower Manhattan. The huge firm Skidmore Owings & Merrill (SOM) put David Childs in charge of designing One World Trade Center, yet the low-profile project manager—the architect on site every day—was SOM's Nicole Dosso.

Architectural organizations are making progress in giving women architects their due, but it hasn't been a smooth ride. In 2004, Zaha Hadid became the first woman to win a Pritzker Architecture Prize after 25 years of male winners. In 2010, Kazuyo Sejima shared the award with her partner, Ryue Nishizawam and in 2017 Spanish architect Carme Pigem became a Pritzker Laureate as part of the team at RCR Arquitectes.

In 2012, Wang Shu became the first Chinese Pritzker Laureate, yet his firm was founded and is partnered with his architect wife, Lu Wenyu, who was not recognized. In 2013, the Pritzker Committee refused to reissue Robert Venturi's 1991 award to include Venturi's wife and partner, the esteemed Denise Scott Brown. Only in 2016, did Brown finally receive some much-deserved accolades when she shared the AIA Gold Medal with her husband.

Organizations for Women Architects and Designers

Many excellent associations are working to improve the status of women in the field of architecture and other male-dominated careers. Through conferences, seminars, workshops, publications, scholarships, and awards, they provide training, networking, and support to help women advance their careers in architecture and related professions. Listed here are a few of the most active architecture organizations for women.

  • Association for Women in Architecture + Design (AWA+D): Founded in 1922 as a national sorority of architecture students and alumni, the Association of Women in Architecture (AWA) had chapters across the US. None was the more successful than the group in Los Angeles, California, which is the last surviving original chapter. By 1975 the organization became the Association FOR Women in Architecture, and in 2012 it adopted its current name, the Association for Women in Architecture + Design. Mission: "to advance and support women in the allied fields of architecture and design."
  • Women in Architecture (WIA): WIA is a committee of the New York City Chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA). The group promotes women architects by providing mentoring and networking opportunities for women in architecture and other fields related to building and construction.
  • Organization of Women Architects and Design Professionals: The original Organization of Women Architects (OWA) grew out of the women's movement of the 1970s. Based in the San Francisco Bay Area, this support network for women architects and designers offers a newsletter, networking opportunities, and other supportive resources. Mission: "The goal of OWA is to support women as a whole person and not only their careers."
  • Chicago Women in Architecture: Founded in 1974, Chicago Women in Architecture (CWA) is an organization for women in architecture and related professions, including educators, engineers, and landscape architects. The group provides networking opportunities and other resources for women. Mission: "The primary goal of CWA is to advance the status of women in these profession."
  • Professional Women in Construction: Since 1980, PWC has been an advocate for women's workplace rights within a traditionally male industry. In 2006, it was the PWC who recognized architect Nicole Dosso for her work rebuilding the the World Trade Center. Mission: "PWC encourages and advances the goals and interests of woman and minority-owned businesses."
  • National Association of Women in Construction: Founded by 16 Fort Worth, Texas women in 1953, the National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC) is now an international association that promotes and supports the advancement and employment of women in the construction industry. The NAWIC Image is the organization's popular magazine.
  • Society of Women Engineers: Aspire. Advance. Achieve. The Society of Women Engineers (SWE) is a non-profit educational and service organization founded in 1950. Over half of its members are students. Mission: "Stimulate women to achieve full potential in careers as engineers and leaders, expand the image of the engineering profession as a positive force in improving the quality of life, and demonstrate the value of diversity."
  • Women in Architecture at UIUC: Founded in 1998 by architecture students at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the WIA organization provides events and networking opportunities for educators and students at all levels. Join an organization at your own school to receive lifelong support and networking.