Anika Mittal, Architect & Urban Designer -min
What is your take on the state of women in architecture today?… does the All-men network still exist?
I don’t think there is anything such as an all-men network. There are so many women practicing architecture that it would be quite difficult for such a network to exist. Personally, I haven’t faced any discrimination as such that I could put my hands on or cite instances. Today’s architectural schools are not like the earlier times – More than 50% of a batch is girls.
As initial years are tough for most professionals branching out on their own, sometimes it could seem hard for women to get projects initially – based on a misconceived notion that women may not be able to devote as much time or mothers would have other commitments and occasionally the odd understanding that women might not be able to command/demand respect of clients, vendors, project managers, etc. However, more and more women are breaking the glass ceiling. Eventually, it’s about the knowledge, creativity and drive and finally the project speaks for itself.
What do you see as key for overcoming the issues (lack of sanitation-health-dignity-safety) women face in the architectural profession?
I would highly recommend that each construction site must have a toilet facility which should be cleaned on a daily basis. This actually should be made a mandatory part of any civil contract. This would enable better working conditions.
‘Self-selecting out’ – Do women practically disappear either after marriage or children in this profession?
Of course, it is tough for women to practice at the same pace, as they need to multi-task and have a family and business together. The challenge I feel is mostly an internal one, to try and balance a good work-family balance but this is true for all industries!
Some women do quit their jobs after marriage or children for varied reasons. There could be family pressures or they might not have enough support system or the company they work is not flexible enough or they might feel guilty being away from the kids for extensive hours or even the fact that they just find it a constant battle to juggle between work & family. Each person has their own reason for quitting and honestly, it’s okay as long as the person is happy with their decision. There will always be the other extreme also.
What advise would you give your women architects to invest in their career?
With a robust support system and a conscious riddance of guilt – A good work life balance is not that hard to achieve. For most practicing architects, the flexibility of a business of their own is a great benefit, and even companies are now enabling flexi-hours to ensure that women don’t disappear.
Tell us about yourself, your journey into this industry, and the women architects who were your source of inspiration?
An Architect and an Urban Designer with over 13 years of experience across all the facets of design and construction industry in India and UK. I graduated from Sushant School of Art & Architecture, New Delhi and MSc in Urban design from The Bartlett, UCL, and London. After working few years, I decided to take the plunge and start an architecture studio – Mold design studio, based in New Delhi. Also, the founding Partner of Amalgam, a design studio that specializes in using the traditional Indian craft of inlay to redefine the contemporary Indian aesthetic as a blend of convention and modernity.
Women architects all around the world continue to inspire me – rather I should say, women in general. Everyone deals with professional challenges differently – and seeing and talking to people can offer a great source of learning.
What is missing in architecture today?
Indian architecture today is still missing its own identity. With massive globalization & urbanization, Indian architecture has lost its identity. There needs to be a new language that balances between the global & the Indian, respecting the traditions, climate and culture. There is a need for an identity that amalgamates the modern lifestyle with the rich past of India.
Any last words that you would like to share for our readers?
The reason why International women’s day is celebrated is to encourage full gender equity and equal rights for all, which is still, a big concern in a lot of places globally. India has so much discrimination against women – One doesn’t see it much in the urban pockets, but it’s very common in the villages and the lower middle class. We are still fighting the basics such as saving the girl child, education for the girl child, dowry, domestic violence, etc. Firstly this segment of the society doesn’t really understand or care about women’s day. Secondly, it’s still strange to dedicate one day to women. It’s like celebrating Mother’s day or Father’s day or Valentine’s day. Not sure why we need one day to remind us to celebrate women or moms or dads – we need to celebrate women and relationships all through the year. Also, I feel the day sort of reinforces the belief that men & women are not equal, which defeats the purpose.