Design awards recruit more women to move away from “old-white-guy” juries

By Marcus Fairs

International architecture and design awards programmes are striving to improve gender balance among judges, a survey conducted as part of our Move the Needle initiative has found.

Three of the eight programmes we contacted told Dezeen they were working to ensure they have more women judges on board, with Frame Awards, Restaurant and Bar Design Awards and World Architecture Festival all promising to do better.

Two more, Architizer A+ Awards and RIBA Awards, already have strong policies in place and have healthy gender balances on their juries, at 56 and 45 per cent respectively.

However, three of the awards we surveyed had juries that were more than three quarters male. These are Restaurant and Bar Design Awards, World Architecture News Awards and Frame Awards, with nine, 22 and 23 per cent respectively.

FX Awards faired slightly better with 33 per cent female judges. Dezeen is aiming for an equal number of men and women on our own Dezeen Awards, with women making up 54 per cent of judges so far announced.

FX Awards was the only one of the eight not to provide us with a statement. World Architecture News Awards responded to our enquiries but only to say that it “takes gender equality and all other forms of diversity very seriously in all areas”.

WAF promises to improve gender equality

World Architecture Festival has already increased the number of female judges from 34 at last year’s event to 56 at the forthcoming one, taking place in Amsterdam in December. This brings the percentage of women up from 28 per cent last year to 43 per cent.

“We have already recruited most of our judges for this year’s festival in Amsterdam,” said Tracy Collins, group event director at WAF organiser Emap. “You will no doubt be pleased to hear that of the 127 judges from 37 countries who have accepted invitations, 43 per cent are women.”

Illustrations are by Kiki Ljung

In addition, in a statement to Dezeen last week, WAF committed to improving the gender balance of its speaker programme. “We are aiming to increase gender equality year on year,” Collins said.

Frame Awards striving to do better

Frame Awards also said it would improve on the 23 per cent female judges it had on its inaugural programme.

“We are aware of the fact that the Frame Awards 2018 jury didn’t have the perfect gender balance,” said Frame Awards director Robert Thiemann. “We are striving for a better gender balance in 2019.”

“We approached more women, but for different reasons didn’t succeed in getting as many on board as we’d hoped for,” he added, making a point previously made by several other event organisers.

In our story last week about gender balance at architecture and design conferences, organisers said they too struggled to secure female speakers and were unable to find female replacements for women who pulled out at short notice.

Restaurant and Bar Design Awards to increase diversity

Restaurant and Bar Design Awards committed last December to invite more female judges this year after Dezeen revealed that four out of 45 of the jury for this year’s programme are women – just nine per cent.

“In the light of light of these comments and the increased awareness of gender and cultural diversity on judging panels we have committed to mindfully increasing the diversity on next year’s panel and in future,” said Restaurant & Bar Design Awards founder Marco Rebora.

Rebora made the statement after the male-heavy line-up provoked a backlash on social media. This was exacerbated when one of his employees defended the jury line-up and accused critics of being motivated by sour grapes. Rebora declined to make a further statement for this story.

Two other awards programmes, World Architecture News Awards (22 per cent female judges) and Design Effectiveness Awards (33 per cent female judges), did not provide statements.

Juries of architecture and design awards have traditionally been one of the more visible symbols of male dominance in the sector, along with conferences speakers and recipients of prestigious lifetime achievement awards such as the Pritzker Architecture Prize and the RIBA Royal Gold Medal.

Architizer A+ Awards has more women judges than men

Architizer CEO Marc Kushner said that he launched his own A+ Awards programme partly to challenge the patriarchal nature of the architecture world.

“A big motivation for starting the A+ Awards was the feeling that most other architecture awards were just a venue for old-white-guy architects to get into a room and reward other old-white-guy architects,” said Kushner.

“There are some particularly egregious examples, including a successful programme from the UK and the most coveted award from my country, that have jury compositions like it’s 1950,” he added.

The last Architizer A+ Awards programme, held in 2016, featured seven female judges out of a total of 12, meaning women made up 58 percent of the panel.

“Honestly we never counted, but I am as pleased to see this number as I am unsurprised, as it speaks of the very core DNA of our awards,” Kushner said.

Kushner said architects and designers should push awards organisers to make their panels more representative of society. “Architecture firms, long on talk about inclusivity and gender balance goals, should consider who they are asking to appraise their work,” he said.

RIBA Awards “committed to eradicating inequality”

RIBA Awards, which includes the Stirling Prize as well as several other UK regional and national programmes, has the second best gender balance of all the programmes we surveyed, with women making up 45 per cent of judges. “The RIBA is committed to playing its part in driving change and eradicating inequality,” a spokesperson said, pointing out that this ran across all its activities, and not just its awards juries (see full statement below).

The institute said that its proactive stance was already paying off in terms of diversity of its audience. “In the last three years, we have seen our white British demographics for exhibitions decrease from 92 per cent in 2014 to an average of 70 per cent in 2016 and 2017,” the organisation said.

RIBA also organised and hosted last week’s Must do Better event, which explored how architecture firms can increase diversity. The free event was held in partnership with Dezeen.

Help us Move the Needle

Dezeen’s Move the Needle initiative is challenging organisations in architecture and design to tackle gender imbalance. So far five major conferences and a leading architecture firm have committed to improving diversity, with dozens more pledges made in emails to Dezeen. We will publish all of these soon.

Below are details of the gender balance at the seven awards programmes we surveyed, from best to worst. We have excluded our own Dezeen Awards from the list, although we are striving for gender equality among judges. We have so far recruited 65 of the 75 judges we need. Of these, 35 are women, or 54 per cent.

If you want to commit to Move the Needle in your own organisation this year, or have a positive story to share, add a comment below or email us at movetheneedle@dezeen.com.


Architizer A+ Awards

Female judges: 7 (58 per cent)
Male judges: 5 (42 per cent)

Figures are for the 2018 programme.

Statement: “Honestly we never counted, but I am as pleased to see this number as I am unsurprised, it speak the very core DNA of our awards,” said Architizer CEO Marc Kushner.

“A big motivation for starting the A+ Awards was the feeling that most other architecture awards were just a venue for old-white-guy-architects to get into a room and reward other old white guy architects (I can say that as an ageing white guy).

“There are some particularly egregious examples, including a successful programme from the UK and the most coveted award from my country, that have jury compositions like it is 1950.

“The entire concept behind our awards is to break the process open and invite every stakeholder of architecture to the table. That includes non architects. We don’t have juror quotas, we just have requirements that our jurors need to be engaged, accomplished and smart. With that criteria as our northern light, heterogeneity is an obvious by-product.

“Architecture firms, long on talk about inclusivity and gender balance goals, should consider who they are asking to appraise their work. Thanks for shining a light on this!”

www.awards.architizer.com


RIBA Awards

Female judges: 39 (45 percent)
Male judges: 47 (55 percent)

These include juries for the RIBA Regional Awards, National Awards, House of the Year, Stephen Lawrence Prize, Client of the Year and Stirling Prize. Figures are for the 2017 awards.

Statement: “The RIBA is committed to playing its part in driving change and eradicating inequality,” RIBA said. “We have a range of initiatives to encourage and showcase best practice including mentoring resources to support female staff including a Women into Leadership event and the nationwide roll-out of our mentor training launched last year.

“Our Practice Role Models project shines a light on exemplar practices and our Employment and Equality, Diversity and Inclusion policies commit RIBA Chartered Practices to providing non-discriminatory and inclusive working environments, upheld by our Code of Practice, complaints procedure and sanctions.”

“Equally, for our cultural or public programming, we take care in ensuring to feature work and talent of both emerging and established names within our programmes and to provide a platform for men and women to speak at our events.

“We have a strict policy of never programming all-male panel discussions, and we carefully monitor both our audiences and who we invite to speak and commission for exhibitions. The greater focus on diversity of speakers and contributors has enabled us to attract a much more diverse audience. For instance, in the last three years, we have seen our white British demographics for exhibitions decrease, from 92 per cent in 2014 to an average of 70 per cent in 2016 and 2017.”

www.architecture.com


Design Effectiveness Awards

Female judges: 15 (33 per cent)
Male judges: 30 (67 per cent)

Organised by the Design Business Association, these awards celebrate design that improves the business performance of the client.

Statement: The Design Business Association did not provide a statement.

www.effectivedesign.org.uk


FX Awards

Female judges: 8 (33 per cent)
Male judges: 16 (67 per cent)

An awards programme for interior projects and products. Figures are for the 2017.

Statement: The FX Awards did not provide a statement.

www.fxdesignawards.co.uk


World Architecture Festival

Female judges: 34 (28 per cent)
Male judges: 86 (72 per cent)

Figures are for 2017. For this year’s programme WAF has recruited 56 female judges (43 per cent) and 73 male judges (57 per cent).

Statement: “We have already recruited most of our judges for this year’s festival in Amsterdam,” said Tracy Collins, group event director at WAF organisers Emap.

“You will no doubt be pleased to hear that of the 127 judges from 37 countries who have accepted invitations, 43 per cent are women. WAF is fully committed to supporting gender equality in architecture.”

www.worldarchitecturefestival.com


Frame Awards

Female judges: 6 (23 per cent)
Male judges: 20 (77 per cent)

A new awards programme for interior architecture and design, from the publishers of Frame magazine. Figures are for 2018.

Statement: “Thanks for reaching out,” said director Robert Thiemann. “We are aware of the fact that the Frame Awards 2018 jury didn’t have the perfect gender balance. We approached more women, but for different reasons didn’t succeed in getting as many on board as we’d hoped for.”

“Having said this, our industry still is largely dominated by men, which is reflected by the pool of industry leaders. We are striving for a better gender balance in 2019. And, by the way, for a better balance with regards to ethnic background, age, and other diversity-related qualities. For focusing only on gender would be a superficial take on diversity.”

www.frameweb.com


World Architecture News Awards

Female judges: 20 (22 per cent)
Male judges: 69 (78 per cent)

Now in its 10th year, these international awards are organised by online architecture title World Architecture News. Figures are for the 2017 programme.

Statement: “I would like to confirm Haymarket Media Group takes gender equality and all other forms of diversity very seriously in all areas, products (including events) and markets we operate in and we are committed to continue to do so,” said William Kendrick, business director at Haymarket Business Media, which owns World Architecture News Awards.

www.backstage.worldarchitecturenews.com


Restaurant and Bar Design Awards

Female judges: 4 (9 percent)
Male judges: 41 (81 percent)

Figures are for the 2018 programme. In December the organiser promised to improve gender balance next year following a backlash over the male-dominated jury.

Statement: “I decline any further comment beyond what I have already made,” said founder Marco Rebora.

www.restaurantandbardesignawards.com

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