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Column Marianne Loof | The architect the woman

17 July 2018

Amsterdam has a new mayor: Femke Halsema. There has been a lot to do in the past period about her application.

Opponents made signatures against her arrival long beforehand. Her political color, but especially her person, apparently called for resistance. Of course it was not discussed openly that Femke possibly becomes the first female mayor in Amsterdam. Being self-assured and self-willed is and remains a difficult combination for a woman in the eyes of many.

Although 34% female mayors were appointed in 2017, their total share is only 20%. And in the liberal, progressive metropolis of Amsterdam, it apparently did not happen automatically. In 2018, a woman had to be actively promoted. Femke kept her head cool and remained herself: content driven, dominant and emotional at the same time.

The man-woman ratio is still skewed in architecture. So much so that the BNA will draw up an action plan to reduce the skewed ratio in the sector. Although approximately 45% of the students at the TU Delft Faculty of Architecture are now women, in the practice of the offices, but particularly among architects, that percentage is considerably lower. And when you take the actual ratios in the broader field - in projects, at the tables, on the construction - then that relationship is incredibly crooked. Still, after 30 years as an architect, I am regularly the only woman sitting at the table.

Now this is just the numerical analysis. More important are the unspoken expectations that are linked to the person of the female architect: soft and bound. Or even the architecture: the Amstel Tower of Powerhouse was immediately called 'feminine and slim' by the rounded corners (Architectenweb).

The heated discussion that arose on Twitter with the arrival of Femke Halsema shows that, even in a progressive city like Amsterdam, we are far from free of such pre-programmed expectations and judgments. And that is no different in the architecture industry.

September 2018,