Three women architects from Bergamo have gained the right to use the female form of ‘architect’ on their professional stamp. Contributor Rachael Martin spoke to the women behind the campaign about what the landmark decision means to them.
“Architecture is a very male environment that has strong links with the building world,” explains Francesca Perani, adding that only three out of ten architects in Italy are women and that it can be hard to progress in the male-dominated field.
Together with fellow architects Silvia Vitali and Mariacristina Brembilla, Perani campaigned for several months to be able to call herself ‘architetta’ rather than the male form, ‘architetto’.
Their request was accepted by the Order of Architects in Bergamo, Lombardy in March, and from Thursday, they – together with other women in the profession – will be able to use the female form in their professional stamp.
For Perani, the introduction of an equivalent word in Italian was more than a simple question of semantics.
“It’s an important evolution, because it gives us our identity as professionals,” she says. “When I was at university, there were no female teachers of design – not just in Italy, but also when I studied abroad.
“But in London, I had a female director who was very supportive of other women, and that was very important for me. Young women today need to see that there are women in the field, women who are promoting their work, not just for themselves but to provide positive role models for new generations.”
Perani co-founded Archidonne, a group for women architects in 2010, which has worked with the Order of Architects to create an equal opportunities committee in 2013, in order to promote equal treatment of men and women within the profession. She says that while women architects typically graduate from university with higher marks and in less time than men, they often find it difficult to progress once they begin work.
The three women. Photo: Francesca Perani
Even when choosing the name for the group, ‘Architette’ felt like “a step too far”, Perani explained, so they opted for ‘Archidonne’ – a hybrid of ‘architetti’ (architects) and ‘donne’ (women).
However, she’s hopeful that the term will now become common parlance. “Just as it was difficult for people to use assessora (councillor) and sindaca (mayor) at first, it’s the same for architetta. They’ll get used to it,” she said.
Laura Onofri, one of the founders of equal opportunities movement SeNonOraQuando? (If not now, when?), agrees.
“One of the factors that can change the patriarchal cultural models within our country is language,” she says. “It isn’t a case of whether a word ‘sounds right’ or not. It’s about using the right words to define people and circumstances in a way that is not only correct but is equal.”
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