An effort to understand the drop-off in women entering or sticking with architecture after obtaining degrees has led to a series of recommendations from Iowa Women in Architecture.

The organization was formed two years ago, following several years of discussion and research into the question of why many women leave design fields.

Architecture firms, and other employers, should recognize that not every employee strives to climb to the top of the corporate ladder, according to a presentation during the fall convention of the Iowa chapter of the American Institute of Architects.

Ann Sobiech Munson of Substance Architecture and Danielle Hermann of OPN Architects Inc., two founders of the group, made the presentation, which urged the design profession to adopt what is called a lattice approach to employee development.

“The ladder career path model, which dictates that employees must either move up a singular path or get off the ladder, has become increasingly irrelevant and ineffective at engaging today’s diverse workforce,” according to the report.

Under the lattice approach, an ideal work environment would take into account each employee’s career goals – for example, an architect might want to specialize in a specific industry – and personal life. 

A 2012 survey found that 92 percent of respondents said flexible working hours would have the most positive impact on their career satisfaction. The organization offers several recommendations for implementing flexible work schedules.
• Allow flexible hours for occasional work-life balance issues on an 
  as-needed basis.
• Provide opportunities for traditional and daily flexible schedules, 
  whether full -time or part -time.
• Provide opportunities for condensed work weeks.
• Provide regular review of employee/employer expectations 
  and limits.
• Consider setting core hours for full-time employees to assist in 
  team coordination.
• Coordinate project meetings/collaboration efforts with respect to 
  employee’s’ alternate work schedules.
• Review expectations for handling situations where either the 
  employer or employee needs to request a variance from the 
  established, alternate work schedule. Provide advance notice for 
  commitments outside of the alternate work schedule.
• Provide equal opportunities for employees regardless of 
  work schedules.

The organization is preparing a final report that should be completed in December on best practices for architectural firms that will focus on career development, work options, communications, discrimination and inclusion, and benefits.