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There has been much discussion raised about "Why are women leaving Architecture? and more broadly, Why is the profession losing key talent?"  Both women and men practitioners are disillusioned by the myth of work/life balance: Women are grappling with "have it all" expectations of juggling family time with the demands of full-time work.  Men are struggling to support their families solely on an architect's salary and fall back on asking spouses to maintain their jobs. The lack of affordable childcare and high cost of living only magnifies the challenges.  How did we end up in this modern family dilemma? What can we do to improve the situation?

Could Men Do More by Doing Less?

The recent Sunday New York Times featured Hannah Seligson’s article “Page by Page, Men Are Stepping Into the Circle”.  Framed by the encouraging news that many male leaders and employees in corporations and upstart tech businesses have begun to embrace the concepts of Sheryl Sandberg’s book, we learn that there are a significant number of men “Leaning In”; embracing ideas about equity in the workplace and learning that the concept of creating a level playing field not only supports the push toward women being promoted for their promise as well as their achievements, but that these same equity concepts have a parallel benefit to men’s lives.

The theme that stuck with me is how gender roles and behavioral expectations play a silent but strong force in the workplace — and that in many ways, as a leader it’s my responsibility to understand them so we can have the most productive workplace.
— Kevin Systrom, a founder of Instagram "Page by Page, Men are stepping into the Lean in Circle". NY Times

 It seems that we might be able to further solidify and guarantee the longevity of the principles of equitable practice if we fought for ideas common to both genders – helping men, as well, to see that they could bring more sanity and balance to their lives without being seen as weak, lazy, or unproductive. We need to realize that we can all be successful without sacrificing the enrichment that results from having time to cherish personal relationships, strengthen family bonds, pursue personal interests, and be involved in our communities and neighborhoods. Back in our days of architecture school, we were assured that pulling all-nighters would guarantee project success. With the insight that is frequently a product of maturity, we now know that our productivity would actually have been enhanced if we had gone home to get some sleep.

Our bottom-up approach is a great start, but shouldn’t we focus top-down as well? Who doesn’t know a driven, ambitious, workaholic man that is likely on a road to burnout because he is doing what we all think is expected of us – namely, everything. Let’s invite our male colleagues to see how much more successful they could be by stepping back. Give a woman the chance to take the reins for a while, as partners rather than competitors.  Given the stigma-free opportunity to connect with life outside the workplace, who knows? They might come to value how it feels, and in the process become the partners and advocates we deserve.

by Tamara Shroll, AIA, LEED AP