While data in recent years show an increase in women being awarded architecture’s highest honors (AIA Gold Medal, AIA/ACSA Topaz Medallion, Pritzker Prize, and ACSA Distinguished Professor), it’s equally important to understand the context. With the exception of the ACSA Distinguished Professor designation, the highest honors in architecture have at least 20 years of history being male-only awards. This history cannot be changed and counters women’s rights legislation in the United States. In the case of the AIA Gold Medal, the era of male-only recipients lasted 107 years making it the most male dominated and the last of the four to be awarded to a woman.
While women were pursuing architectural education in the United States as early as 1874—Mary Louisa Page at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign—almost 100 years would pass before many institutions offer full co-education and Title IX of the Education Amendments would be signed into law by President Richard Nixon. Title IX, prohibiting sexism in education, and the preceding Equal Pay Act, prohibiting sex-based wage discrimination, were landmark moments in the women’s rights movement. Nonetheless, 50 years later, the effects of this have not led to gender parity in architecture and many other disciplines.