Farhat Afzal | Context

When it comes to measuring leadership characteristics, it shows that women often do better than men. In a study by Zenger and Folkman (2011), results showed that women outscored men in almost all areas such as problem-solving and analytical issues, showing integrity and honesty, communication prowess, collaboration, and advocating change [1]. Even during the ongoing global pandemic caused by the novel coronavirus, research has shown that countries led by women are doing significantly better in dealing with the outcomes of Covid-19. However, oftentimes, gender issues get in the way of determining people who are chosen for such roles.

In the architecture profession, statistics show that while women comprise half of the student population in architecture programs, that number dwindles down drastically when it comes to those who eventually continue with the practice. It is not just at the top levels where women remain underrepresented, it’s at every level of practice. This disparity in numbers hurts the architecture profession because this means that much of the design decisions taken around the country miss out on valuable contributions that can come from women.

According to a survey conducted by the Institute of Architects Bangladesh (IAB), there are 1828 female architects who are members, while the number of male architects is 2670. In the current 23rd Executive Council of IAB, out of fifteen positions, only one of them is held by a woman. But this can be changed, as this year, four female candidates are running for the IAB election of the 24th Executive Council.

Dr. Farida Nilufar and Farhana Sharmin are the two candidates competing for the General Secretary position. This is a key position at IAB committee, and regardless of who wins, the position will be occupied by a female member of IAB, which is a matter of great progress.

Farida Nilufar has been a professor at the Department of Architecture at Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET) for over thirteen years and has also worked as Member of Education Sub-Committee on Accreditation of Architecture School in Bangladesh with IAB. She currently holds the position of Secretary, Environment and Urbanisation at the 23rd Executive Council of IAB and has been the Treasurer for the 20th Executive Council. Farhana Sharmin is the principal architect at Krom Architecture and a former Secretary, Seminar and Convention at IAB’s 20th and 21st Executive Council.

The other two candidates are Moushumi Ahmed and Nazli Hussain running for the Secretary position in Seminar and Convention category, and Environment and Urbanisation category, respectively. Moushumi Ahmed is the principal architect at I D E A and a former faculty member at Bangladesh University. Nazli Hussain is the chief architect at Praxis Architects and LEED Consultant at U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). Both are first time candidates running for the IAB election.

Women have been part of the architecture discipline in Bangladesh ever since the program was first introduced in BUET in the 1960s. In academics and practice, there have been some great contributions by them as well. But sadly, the profession has long been an exclusive men’s club, both locally and globally. Architecture and the discourse surrounding it suffers greatly when it does not include women’s input and perspectives. And it is high time for a change. The kind of change that we expect will be visible in the 24th IAB Executive Council.

However, some observers are not that optimistic and remain critical about the radical change. In counter, they pointed out that the several key positions of the 24th EC, including the presidential post, are remained either uncontested or contested by the previously elected members. Further, two other female candidates who are competing for the Secretary positions are new faces, and there is little they can actually contribute to the top-heavy decision-making process of IAB.  

The IAB 2020 Election for the 24th Executive Council will be held on 4th December 2020 and includes the following categories and the corresponding candidates who are running [2] :

1. President: Jalal Ahmad and Mubasshar Hussain

2. Vice President (National Affairs): Khan Md. Mustapha Khalid (uncontested)

3. Vice President (International Relations): Md. Ishtiaque Zahir (uncontested)

4. General Secretary: Farida Nilufar and Farhana Sharmin
5. Assistant General Secretary: Sajid- Bin- Doza and Nabi Newaz Khan

6. Treasurer: M. Masud Ur Rashid (uncontested)
7. Secretary (Education): Mohammad Arefeen Ibrahim (uncontested)
8. Secretary (Profession): Bayejid Mahbub Khondker (uncontested)

9. Secretary (Membership): Md. Shahid Hasan Rabbani and Md. Ali Asraf Dewan

10. Secretary (Publication & Publicity): Sheikh Itmam Soud (uncontested)
11. Secretary (Seminar & Convention): Moushumi Ahmed and M. Taufiqur Rahman Khan

12. Secretary (Heritage & Culture): Mohammad Sazzad Hossain (uncontested)
13. Secretary (Environment & Urbanisation): Nazli Hussain and Md. Nafizur Rahman.

CONTEXT contributor: Farhat Afzal is the Senior Academic Associate at Bengal Institute for Architecture, Landscapes and Settlements 


[1] Zenger, J. and Folkman, J., 2011. Are Women Better Leaders Than Men?. [online] Harvard Business Review. Available at: <https://hbr.org/2012/03/a-study-in-leadership-women-do> [Accessed 1 December 2020].

[2] IAB website, http://www.iab.com.bd/ [Accessed 1 December 2020].