It is June 30th 2017.
My name is Ida Bergström, I am a 31 year old feminist from Sweden who used to talk with flowers as a child, now I work as a landscape architect in Copenhagen. A little bit over a year ago I created the Kvindelig Platform, a network for women in the architectural field, because:
1. There were, and still are, not enough female architects visible in our field. It is not that they don’t exist - there is talk about us being 50:50 now, but this is not very evident when you look at lecturers, debate panels, leaders in offices and editors. This is not just a problem for female architects, who do not have other female architects to look up to and be inspired by, but it is also a huge problem for the quality and the development of architecture. If only men are in the possession of power, only their perspective and priorities are represented in the architecture created in Denmark.
2. There was no network for female architects in our biggest union, Arkitektforeningen. Surely there is a need for female architects, underrepresented and all, to join forces and empower each other?
My idea was simple. Start a network and give women a platform to network with each other, share experiences and be inspired by other women. At the first event in April 2016, which I arranged with the help from Arkitektforeningen, sixty women showed up. It was clear that there were more people in need of a female network than just me. There was, however, a bit of a controversy with the first event. As Arkitektforeningen is a members club for all architects, no member can be held out of the events taking place at its premises. I wanted the event to be for women only - I had this idea that the event would give a common and secure ground for the women attending, give them their space and let them talk and discuss their issues. I have no scientific proof (only my gut feeling, what I’ve read in Sheryl Sandberg’s ‘Lean In’, and what I’ve heard from a very wise salary coach) that women sometimes hold back in debates and in conversations when there are men in attendance. There were some angry voices on Facebook, and in the end we couldn’t prevent men from coming to the event, but when the clock struck 6pm there were only women in the room.
That was April 2016, and now, 14 months later, the network has grown from just me and my idea, to a group of eight strong and inspiring women, who are all dedicated in fulfilling our network’s goal: to create an open platform for women in the architectural field where we encourage, guide, strengthen and support female architects in their careers.
Kvindelig Platform (KP) is a network within Arkitektforeningen, which I guess could be considered the Danish RIBA (Royal Institute of British Architects). Arkitektforeningen has supported the network from day one and contributed in all manner of ways. This is one of the perks you get by being a member - small financial support as well as conceptual sparring with dedicated and competent people. They have also helped a lot through advertising our events and promoting the network. In the beginning, it was actually only possible for members of Arkitektforeningen to join, however, after talking to our chairman Natalie Mossin and director Jesper Pagh they agreed to open up to members of our (real) unions FAOD (for architects and designers) and JA (for landscape architects) as well.
Another issue, which I didn’t see coming, were the reactions from some men and women who see the network as a negative thing. They feel that having a women-only network cements the difference between the sexes more than it helps women to progress. They ask, who are we (KP) to say that it is not right that there are only male panels and boards at other events, and then invite only female architects to our events? That makes us just as bad as everyone else.
The difference, as I see it, is that this is our agenda: to make women more visible. It is not about debating concrete, Foucault or a new Danish wave within architecture, which both men and women surely are capable of doing. It is about being a female architect, being given the time and space to talk to each other, and about women being inspired by other women.
So what now? And what about the future? Well, here in Denmark the debate regarding equality in the architectural field seems to have grown a bit over the past few months. On the 8th of March, before attending a Kvindelig Platform event, Rikke Le Quick Larsen triggered a debate about inequality in the field, presenting some statistics about the skewed balance of leadership positions in mayoral departments. The thread quickly filled up with photographs of board members and partners. By the end of the day, 48 out of 52 people represented in the posted photos were men. A few months later, Dorte Mandrup had a piece in the Danish newspaper Politiken, which was later translated to English and posted on Dezeen. In it she debates and questions why she (and other women with her) are categorised as female architects, and not just architects.
So, things are moving out there. However, talk is cheap, and action speaks louder than words, right?
In Kvindelig Platform, we have great ambitions - we talk about arranging camps, taking study trips and visiting architecture by our role models, getting that webpage up and running, record a podcast, having events at least once a month, applying for a scholarship, setting up a scholarship for female architects, visiting Folkemødet, cooperating with other networks, arranging a strategy seminar, getting that Instagram up and running, getting on with times and getting a Snapchat account….and so forth and so on. Up until now (and perhaps for the rest of our existence) we have had a very ad hoc approach to our work in the network. I’d guess it has something to do with time. As I said, we have great ambitions, and not just with Kvindelig Platform. We are busy women, changing the world one step at a time.
It is now July 1st, 2017. And there are so many things to do.
Ida BergströmRead Less