Are you tired of hearing about ‘gender wars’ in the office and dream of a 50/50 workplace? Do you wish that endless talk about equal pay, maternity and paternity leave is a thing of the past? If so, you’ll be inspired by Architects Pollard Thomas Edwards who have created that rare thing – a workplace where men and women create, laugh, succeed and even eat together; a workplace with a 50/50 male to female staff ratio right through the ranks; a workplace with equal pay for men and women, a workplace that many say doesn’t exist……except that it does!
In our 2nd of three interviews we talk to Carl Vann (pictured with Teresa Borsuk) about working in a 50/50 workplace. Carl is a Partner at Pollard Thomas Edwards and father of one; here’s what he had to say:

Q. Natasha: How would you describe the culture in your office when it comes to gender equality?

A. Carl: Well, I have only ever worked for a woman and have only had women mentors in the 16 years I have been here, so for me, gender isn’t an issue. PTE is the 20th biggest architectural firm in the UK and we have a 50/50 split between men and women at all levels of the company including partnerships. We also have equal pay for men and women across the board and that creates a culture of equality and openness.

Q. Natasha: Do you think that a 50/50 office contributes to the financial success of your company?

A. Carl: Yes I do, because I believe it’s easier to be financially successful as a company if people are happy at work. I liken our office to a home because of its family atmosphere and we strive to create a workplace where people are comfortable and all hierarchies (including male and female hierarchies) are broken down. Ultimately, we recognise that this is what makes people happy. In addition, we specialise in designing residential social housing, homes for the elderly and schools and we can’t design successful buildings if we don’t have a mix of people working for us who reflect the UK population.

Q. Natasha: How do you work around your childcare responsibilities?

A. Carl: This is a particularly interesting one for me, because my life partner is also an architect at PTE. Often when it comes to having a child, you tend to defer to the partner who earns the lower salary to do the lion’s share of the childcare. However, because my partner and I get paid the same, we split childcare straight down the middle. No one ever questions our output as architects and we work around our family. It’s a very easy way to live.

Q. Natasha: How does your company deal with parental leave?

A. Carl: We have very flexible working policies here at PTE and we really value women coming back from maternity leave. We talk to them whilst they’re on leave about flexible working when they come back. We do not want to lose talented women architects. I also think that the generation below me has a very different outlook on roles for men and women and childcare and see it as a 50/50 team effort and we are upgrading our policies on parental leave to reflect that.

Some facts on the architectural profession:
Architecture courses have 50/50 male/female intake
Number of qualified female architects in the profession: 22-24%
Number of women in senior positions in the profession:12%