Surveys, by their nature, are newsworthy. They give a snapshot of a current issue at the current moment amongst whichever group they target, and as a result they will often make it into the daily news schedule. Sometimes they make a big splash, become major news items and have producers running to elicit requests for interviews, media appearances and subsequent comments; and sometimes they die a small death in the inner columns of the depths of regional newspapers. I always look out for these small mentions of surveys; after all, their positioning in a newspaper – their position and their size – gives a pretty good indication of how much the editor (who is usually pretty in touch with her/his audience) feels their content would be valued by the wider public.
And so it was interesting to read a short article last week buried on page 36, no less, of Thursday’s London Evening Standard, reporting on a survey by Women in Architecture UK which revealed that half of women architects say that they are paid less than men. 700 women completed the survey – not an insubstantial number – and the figures reported were deeply concerning. Quite apart from the perception that men are paid more than women in this field – and unless we dismiss all female architects as lacking a grasp on reality, then we have to admit that there is likely to be some truth in this assumption – worryingly, almost two thirds said that they had suffered some kind of sexual discrimination at some point in their career. 22% said that they experienced sexual discrimination on a monthly basis. The picture was added to by figures that showed in addition that only 8% of women questioned felt that raising a family would harm men’s careers, while 80% felt that having children was disadvantageous to them in their jobs.
Overall, the picture was far from great – the opposite in fact. And equally concerning was the relegation of the story to the nether regions of the Evening Standard. It practically had the designation ‘space filler’ emblazoned across the top. People may get tired of hearing stories of how there is still gender inequality in the workplace, but unless we keep telling them, raising awareness and persuading people that this is wrong and that we should do something about it, the chances are that we will forget why it is so important that we actually do something about it. We need men and women to be treated fairly in our society, and to feel that they are treated fairly, if we are going to have the chance of harmonious, equal, balanced relationships in the workplace and beyond. If we don’t tackle the inequalities that we see around us, then we are contributing to perpetuating them; we are just making it harder for those who come after us – our daughters (and our sons), and our grandchildren.
We all know that we are in a period of social transition; no-one expects things to change overnight (although sometimes it is nice to dream that they might). But if we relegate important stories to page 36 of the Evening Standard, then we are not helping matters. Look out for the hidden surveys, for they tell a truth we must not forget.