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Gender pay gap worsens at biggest UK architecture studios

The average gender pay gap across the UK's largest architecture studios has got wider in the past year, "disheartening" Dezeen analysis of official data shows.

Among the 20 organisations in the sector required to publish figures, including the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) and the Architectural Association (AA), the median hourly gender pay gap for 2022/23 was 16.7 per cent.

This means that, taken as an average, for every £1 earned by the middle-ranking man at these organisations, the middle-ranking woman earns only 83p.

"Problem that has not improved"

According to the BBC, the median gender pay gap across the whole UK economy is 9.4 per cent – so significantly smaller than the average figure reported in the architecture sector.

Earnings disparity between men and women in the profession appears to have grown year-on-year, up from the 14 per cent median gender pay gap reported by architecture-related organisations for 2021/22.

The gap for 2022/23 was also wider than that reported by 15 architecture-related organisations two years ago in 2020/21 when the average was 15.1 per cent – indicating a one-step-forward, two-steps-back scenario.

"The latest data is indeed disheartening," said Women in Architecture UK chair Igea Troiani.

"The issue of unequal pay for architects of different gender has been an ongoing problem that has not improved regardless of the measures taken by some to improve the situation," she told Dezeen.

"At some point this historically male-dominated profession needs to crack to let women architects participate on equal terms."

Companies with at least 250 staff in the UK are legally required to report annually on their gender pay gaps, with 4 April the deadline for the financial year 2022/23.

Pay inequity widens at top studios

Most of the major architecture studios that disclosed figures in the last two years have seen a widening of the median gender pay gap, including Zaha Hadid Architects (ZHA), Grimshaw and Allies and Morrison.

Ten of the 17 organisations that reported in both 2021/22 and 2022/23 revealed an increase in median gender pay disparity, with Hawkins\Brown, Stride Treglown, Sheppard Robson, TP Bennett, Pick Everard, the AA and the RIBA making up the rest of this group.

Among the other seven, the median gap reduced slightly year-on-year at AHMM, Atkins and Stantec but was still wider than it was two years ago in 2020/21.

Only three studios – Foster + Partners, BDP and AECOM – showed a steady narrowing of the gap over consecutive years, though the disparity still remained 10.5 per cent, 21 per cent and 15.9 per cent at these firms respectively for 2022/23.

The UK government's Gender Pay Gap Service website indicates that PRP Architects failed to meet the 4 April deadline to report.

Gensler and HDR, both headquartered in the US, were required to publish figures in 2022/23 for the first time.

The former, which is the world's largest architecture firm, disclosed a median hourly gender pay gap in the UK of 17.3 per cent. HDR reported a huge median pay gap of 40.1 per cent, larger than any other architecture-related organisation.

Women concentrated in low-paid jobs

The Gender Pay Gap Service website states that a report for Ryder Architecture, which was not required to provide figures in previous years, is also overdue.

London studio BB Partnership, whose website lists nine employees, published data voluntarily. It has a median hourly gender pay gap of minus 15.6 per cent – indicating that the middle-ranking woman gets paid more than the middle-ranking man.

Hawkins\Brown reported the smallest median gender pay gap for 2022/23 among studios at 8.2 per cent. The AA, where there was no median gap at all in 2021/22, disclosed a 2.3 per cent gap for 2022/23.

Companies are also required to provide data on pay distribution. These figures show that 73.2 per cent of the lowest-paid roles at the RIBA are occupied by women.

At HDR, 51 per cent of the lowest-paid jobs are done by women but only 4 per cent of the highest-paid.

Women made up more than half of the lowest-paid staff at 11 out of 18 organisations, but only at the AA were most of the highest-paid jobs done by women.

Troiani, who is also head of division for architecture at London South Bank University, also called for an end to the practice of dividing architects on the same level into different salary tiers.

"The only way the situation will change is if firms are legally required and audited to ensure they are paying female and male architects exactly the same salary if they are undertaking the same role, rather than create tiers within a salary band," she said.

There were also large bonus pay disparities at several studios, especially Gensler, ZHA, HDR and Pick Everard.

Atkins and the AA were the only organisations where a higher percentage of women were paid a bonus than men in 2022/23.

The UK government tends to focus on median hourly pay when presenting pay gap data as these figures tend to provide the best indication of the typical worker's earnings and are not distorted by extremes unlike the mean, which produces an overall average.

Dezeen has contacted the organisations mentioned in this story for comment and the responses are below. This list will be updated as more responses are received.


AHMM referred to its most recent gender pay gap report.

Allies and Morrison

A spokesperson said: "Our figures will fluctuate year in and year out – often due to external circumstances accentuated by individual choices, for example, life changes in light of covid.

"In a practice of our size, these can impact our figures in a given year but we are optimistic about our pipeline of diverse talent."


A spokesperson said: "While we know our results will fluctuate year-on-year as we seek to address the gender imbalance, we've been making positive progress to close the gap, and we're confident we're heading in the right direction.

"For example, our efforts to recruit more women through STEM outreach and early careers pipeline has been successful, but this is slowing our progress in the shorter-term, as it further widens the pay gap between our new recruits and those in senior levels.

"That said, our largest legal entity, Atkins, saw a 7 per cent increase in female representation at an executive level. In addition to this, over the past 12 months, 36 per cent of all promotions have been female. As a proportion of the total female workforce, 19 per cent of women were promoted compared with 15 per cent of men.

"We know that tackling gender imbalance and making long-lasting impact can only be achieved by widening our pool of talent by opening up new opportunities, retaining this talent by removing barriers in the way of their progression, and providing personal
and professional support throughout careers."


Nick Fairham, chief executive, said: "In the last year we have taken action to enhance our maternity leave and pay and introduced a menopause policy. We feel this demonstrates our commitment to closing the gender pay gap and creating a truly inclusive workplace.

"Whilst we have made progress in closing our gender pay gap, we recognise this is the first step on a long road. We are passionate about ensuring gender equity and our next step is to analyse our gender balance at a granular level to understand why we have fewer women in some professions and levels and to develop an action plan to address this."

Foster + Partners

Foster + Partners referred to its most recent gender pay gap report.


Julia Simet, regional managing principal, said: "This is our first year of publishing gender pay gap data for our practice in the UK. We are happy to report that Gensler's UK workforce is 52 per cent female and we have a healthy pay equity picture in lower-middle and lower pay quartile. However, we acknowledge that there is a disparity at senior levels and we're committed to addressing pay equity in our business.

"We have robust talent development, succession, and pipeline programmes in place to ensure that gender equality is implemented as a priority at our firm. We believe that by nurturing and promoting female talent, we can create a more equitable workplace where everyone has an equal opportunity to succeed. We understand that progress will take time, but we are committed to making positive changes year-over-year."


Hawkins\Brown referred to its gender pay gap full report and supporting statement and said it had no further comment.


A spokesperson said: "HDR does not currently have an established architecture practice located in the UK. HDR is committed to making year-on-year improvements to reduce the company’s gender pay gap by implementing a variety of strategies as outlined in our annual pay gap report."

Pick Everard

Duncan Green, managing partner, said: "The past six years of gender pay gap reporting particularly have revealed that gender pay gaps will fluctuate – and that isn't necessarily indicative of progress, particularly for firms where small changes in employee profile have more significant impact on figures.

"Our changes in practices and a range of important EDI initiatives in the past three years in particular have been positively received and engaged with by our people. That being said, these initiatives are long-term, and it will take time for their full impact to be felt, so we know there is more to do.

"In reporting our gender pay gap data, we go beyond the headline figures because we are committed to delivering better together and we want to understand how our culture, people, management and proactive actions help us close any gaps. We are on a journey, as is the entire industry, and we know that the learnings we take forward from recent years coupled with our long-term initiatives will have a profoundly positive impact on our people."


Robbie Turner, director of inclusion and diversity, said: "The data for 2021/22 show that RIBA still has work to do to tackle our gender and ethnicity pay gap. We have reviewed our ongoing work to address these findings and are taking forward additional actions for 2023. We continue to be committed to taking evidence-based action to eradicate these gaps.

"Whilst it is important to acknowledge the limitations of this data, which do not capture the nuances of gender, cultural, or ethnic identity, intersectionality, or individual experience, the picture is clear – we need to do more. This data does provide a valuable overview of trends within our organisation, which we will use alongside more timely and granular data to track the impact of our work."


Gillian Blandin-Ellis, human resources director for Stantec UK, said: "Stantec is aiming to steadily decrease the gender pay gap across our businesses globally, and we are proud to have been recently included in the Bloomberg Gender-Equality Index for the fourth consecutive year. This globally recognised index tracks the performance of public companies committed to gender-data reporting transparency and advancing women's equality in the workplace.

"While we still have work to do, our ethos is grounded in creating an inclusive and equitable culture."

Stride Treglown

Pierre Wassenaar, chair of architecture, said: "This year we have seen a slight increase in our mean and median pay gap of 0.24 per cent and 1.21 per cent respectively. Since starting to report our gender pay gap, we have seen an overall decrease in both mean and median figures. We are still determined to reduce our practice-wide gender pay gap, and addressing our gender pay gap is a continual process of analysis and intervention.

"Our gender-balanced promotion and salary panel has continued to meet and review salaries across the organisation. We have started looking at different ways of recognising contribution and distributing reward through the organisation.

"To aid in the retention and support we can give our female employees, we have looked at more family-based guidance to aid better transitions during key moments of family life. These include fertility and infertility treatments and becoming a parent.

"To improve our inclusive leadership and culture, we have continued to invest in our internal learning and development programme, GROW."

The photography is by Ilya Pavlov.