This year, Berlin is celebrating International Women’s Day (IWD) with a new public holiday. We interviewed two of our senior female architects, Susanne Kersting and Franziska Gensichen, to ask them about it…
Is this a promising sign that we’re making progress on the road to equality between men and women?
Susanne and Franziska: This new public holiday is a small step on a long road. That said, up until 1977, women in Germany still had to ask their husbands for permission to go to work (so this could be seen as a milestone).
Why do you think Berlin chose IWD as a public holiday and do you think that other German states will follow suit?
Susanne: Berlin was under a bit of political pressure (as the region with the lowest number of bank holidays) and a female parliamentary member proposed that the new public holiday should be on the 8th March. Several other states have introduced new bank holidays but only Berlin chose International Women’s Day.
How can we improve gender equality in our industry?
Franziska: Germany is trying to achieve equality through its laws. A good example of this is equal pay for all – introduced in 1980. However, the current gender pay gap shows that (in reality) Germany is still behind. An area that should be improved is being more transparent (for example in salary structures) but having respect for each other is also very important.
Do we need to make more space for families?
Franziska: Of course, this is essential. For several reasons the 9 to 5 routine is outdated. The overall trend goes in the direction of a trust-based working relationship and, in the end, it’s results that count.
Susanne: Coming back to the issue of the gender pay gap, a key reason why women (instead of men) often stay at home to take care of their children is because of finance. In addition, some company cultures don’t support men in taking time off to look after their families.
Franziska: Something that is still not deeply recognised is a mother’s work ethic – good organisation skills, efficiency and networking. These are important skills to have in a company. Here, we actually refer to multitasking as ‘muttitasking’ or ‘mummy tasking’!
To what extent can a building’s design reinforce patriarchal dominance?
Susanne: Unfortunately, there are still a lot of international cultures who use design to separate genders (in a repressive way). In European culture, we have (more or less) arrived at an equal level. But one aspect that is still lacking is childcare facilities and these should ideally be connected to the workplace.
So, to conclude…
Susanne and Franziska: The solution is astonishingly simple – balance provides people with a healthy and happy way of life and this, in turn, enables them to do a good job. Considering that the famous Pritzker Architecture Prize has been awarded to 43 men and only three women, architecture could still be seen as a male dominated world, but progress is being made and today we’d like to celebrate the fact that 55% of employees at Hyphen are female *Cheers!*