20 January 2007

Women in Landscape Architecture

Beatrix Farrand. Martha Brookes Hutcheson. Gertrude Jekyll. Ellen Biddle Shipman. Florence Yoch. Lucille Council. Kate Sessions.
All were historically significant women in landscape architecture.

Historically, women in landscape architecture were few and far between. But stand-outs like Farrand and Hutcheson helped pave the way for a growing number of women practicing landscape architecture today (UNLV has a great reading list as a start for learning about some of these pioneeers). The ASLA has had multiple female presidents and women now account for 34% of practicing professionals (which, might be better than it sounds if you remember that the class of 1969 is probably still practicing as a nearly all male cohort, thus limiting the speed with which any change can occur). To continue addressing the problems and create a network of support, the ASLA has established the WILA network.

That doesn't mean that there isn't still prevalent attitude in many quarters that keeps women from prominent positions and creates a pay gap in the profession. And the supposedly enlightened sphere of Academia is no exception. Even though some have risen to positions as Deans, CELA presidents, editors of Journal, etc., only 24% of academics in the field are women. Could that be right? Are universities really less responsive than, say, design/build firms and contractors?

Well, the most prominent LA program in the country is under some serious scrutiny for its failue to hire women. Just over week ago Martha Scwartz, arguably the most prominent female landscape architect in the country, quit her adjunct position at Harvard because of the LA program's hiring practices in regards to women. As she pointed out to the interim president and the Harvard Crimson, the program hasn't hired a woman in a tenured position in over 100 years. “The world of architecture is still a major, major boys’ club, major, it’s an uphill battle still for women,” said Schwartz.

When you read the Higher Ed piece, make sure you get down to the comments at then end. They apear to be uncensored and, thus, provide some diverse and dissenting comments.

Photo: Princeton Campus. Princeton hired pioneering woman landscape architect Beatrix Farrand to design their campus, but didn't admit women as students until 1969.

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