Africa’s Largest Architecture Practice Pledges to Take Action on Gender Diversity

Africa’s largest architecture practice, Boogertman + Partners has responded to its Move the Needle Initiative by promising to tackle gender pay gap. According to the report, the South African studio realized it has been paying male employees 19% more per hour than the women after using Dezeen’s simple calculator before making the commitment.

“Boogertman + Partners saw Move the Needle not only as an opportunity to publicly commit to change as an industry leader but also as a chance to bring local challenges to the ongoing debate on a global level,” the company wrote in a statement.

Dezeen’s initiative is developed to address gender imbalance which includes conference speakers, major industry awards recipients and award juries in firms. Boogertman + Partners, which has 260 employees including 96 trusted architects is the most recent firm to commit to change in response to the initiative.

From the report, three leading architecture and design award programmes have already promised to increase the number of onboard female judges, while five other leading conferences in the world have committed to achieving gender balance of their speakers. Architect Foster + Partners in March showed commitment to improving gender balance in response to the initiative. Dezeen also alleged receiving dozens of letters from firms supporting the initiative, with commitments to make changes. IBI Group, HOK and AECOM – three of the largest architecture firms in the world are also some of the firms that have contacted them with commitments to gender diversity.

“Boogertman + Partners hopes that by taking up Dezeen’s challenge and publicizing its score on Move the Needle’s online calculator, it will help lead the way and affect a broader change in the fields of architecture and design in South Africa and Africa,” said Bob Van Bebber, director of Boogertman + Partners

The firm, which launched “a comprehensive exercise to assess levels of equality in the company,” last year was surprised to have such a gender pay gap and have embarked on a transformation process to arrest the imbalances.

“Measuring the gender pay gap provides a transparent mechanism for benchmarking gender imbalances that go beyond tokenism,” Van Bebber said. “It is the best starting point to begin addressing the problem proactively and consistently.”

The gender pay gap calculator was created by Dezeen to provide firms with a rough estimation of the difference between what they pay men and women on the average. The tool was provided to guide firms as they work on complying with UK new laws which require all firms with more than 250 employees to publish figures of their pay gaps annually.

Most published pay gap figures by UK architects were very mean, suggesting the need for a change that’s deeper than equal pay. The pay disparity generally ranges between 9.6% and 29.5% published by Hawkins Brown and BDP respectively. Foster + Partners and Zaha Hadid Architects published gaps of 23.8 and 20.9 percent respectively.

While male and female employees at Boogertman + Partners receive the same pay for equivalent positions, the firm acknowledged commitments to fight gender imbalance further.

“The result of our engagement with Move the Needle made it clear to us that the real issue we face is not an equal pay issue, because hour for hour, men and women receive equal pay at Boogertman + Partners, but an issue of transformation at all levels,” Van Bebber said. “In our own journey of transformation, we believe that real, meaningful change must go deeper.”

The firm as launched mentorship programmes to address the situation as they work on sorting out why women do not often attain the senior positions.

Anna Verasai
Anna Versai is a Team Writer at The HR Digest; she covers topics related to Recruitment, Workplace Culture, Interview Tips, Employee Benefits, HR News and HR Leadership. She also writes for Technowize, providing her views on the Upcoming Technology, Product Reviews, and the latest apps and softwares.

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