Architects Who Make A Fuss

Architects Who Make A Fuss

By Charlotte Malterre-Barthes and Torsten Lange for the Parity Group

A Speculative Investigation into the Archive of a Grassroots Initiative for Gender Parity at the Department of Architecture ETH Zürich, 2014–2017


 Nikolai Zagrekov, “Girl with the t-square” (portrait of Ursula Nachtlicht, daughter of the Jewish architect Leo Nachtlicht), cover image for Die Jugend 44, 1929

Nikolai Zagrekov, “Girl with the t-square” (portrait of Ursula Nachtlicht, daughter of the Jewish architect Leo Nachtlicht), cover image for Die Jugend 44, 1929



In 2014, following yet another design studio final jury with an all-male panel of guest critics, a group of teaching assistants and students gathered in a café at the ETH (Swiss Institute of Technology Zurich) Hönggerberg Campus to vent their frustrations with the persistence of gender inequality in their department. This marked the beginning of the Parity Group, an informal grassroots initiative whose goal was to establish greater balance between men and women at ETH, especially in leadership positions. Over the course of the past three years, Parity Group members have intervened in the department’s institutional structures and have organized two symposia and workshops in participation with experts on the intersection of gender, architecture and design. The group has also become part of a broader international network of similar activist organizations. With the support of this network and the active participation of members from all levels of the department, the Parity Group developed a set of measures for the improvement of gender equity: “9 Points for Parity.” In May 2017, the Professors’ Conference (the senior faculty meeting to discuss the department’s affairs) voted unanimously to adopt and implement a Gender Action Plan for the department. This decision marked a commitment to institutionalize the work of the Parity Group, which at this point had been carried out on an informal and purely voluntary basis. A Parity Board (later formalized as the Gender and Diversity Committee) was established particularly for the delivery of this plan. The task that lies ahead is to formulate and implement a series of concrete measures in line with the needs of the department and the terms of ETH Zurich Executive Board.


This article is a critique of the department and its structures, as well as a broader critique of a lack of gender-based activism, engagement, and intervention in the field of architecture. It is a form of “site-writing,” a spatialized writing format first developed by feminist architectural historian and theorist Jane Rendell. (1) A combination of psychoanalysis and autobiography, drawing on “spaces as they are remembered, dreamed and imagined, as well as observed,” site-writing combines “different genres and modes of writing […] whose critical ‘voices’ are objective and subjective, distant and intimate,” in order to put forth “alternative understandings of subjectivity and positionality.” (2) This piece is a spatial reconstruction of our experience in and efforts towards transforming the department into a more dynamic, diverse, and democratic space. The text is a conversation between distinct voices that cut across time (past, present, and future), real and imagined spaces, and visual and textual registers. Fictitious journal entries by a scholar who visits ETH Zurich for a week in March in 2024 as part of her research on women in architecture are juxtaposed with actual archival documents from the Parity Group as she discovers them.




Monday, March 4, 2024

Day one in the archive. 10 am. Meeting with the archivist on Hönggerberg. She’s a woman, possibly in her late forties. Everything has been perfectly arranged. On the desk are a couple of boxes with the inscription “ETH/D-ARCH Parity Group, 2014–2017,” a drawing tube that has the words “posters and prints” written on it, a binder full of correspondence, and a hard disk whose label reads “original data/audio and video recordings.” She says: “All that’s left is here, but feel free to ask if you’d like to know more.” She was a PhD candidate back then. Few of those who were involved in the group’s activities stayed in the institution. And almost all of the women who, at the time, held Chairs in the department are either Professors or Emeriti by now, or have left the school once their appointments as Guest Professors ended. Who took their places?


 Document 1, dated May 20, 2015. E-Mail correspondence, subject header: “Parity”

Document 1, dated May 20, 2015. E-Mail correspondence, subject header: “Parity”

 Document 2, dated June 10, 2015: “5 Measures for Parity at D-ARCH”

Document 2, dated June 10, 2015: “5 Measures for Parity at D-ARCH”



Fundamentally, architecture is about imagining a desired future. How is it that even today—almost a century after the adoption of the female vote in most European countries—it is still men who plan this future? A small and homogenous group of men: predominantly white and middle-class. Day to day, we are becoming increasingly aware of the ways in which people are affected by design decisions. However, the faction of those who make such decisions is diversifying at an almost imperceptible pace. However, architecture, by and large, is a bastion of male exclusivity. Men continue to dominate not only the profession of architecture, but also architectural education. Even though there is near gender parity in the student body, career opportunities in the field of architecture for women continue to look dire. (3) At the end of 2013, 44.5% of our students were female while only 11.8% of the professorships were held by women. (4) In addition to the shockingly low representation of women among the professors, lecture series and panel discussions with exclusively male speakers are still the norm. Female architects in the curriculum are largely unheard of. This means that for about half of the student body, role models are lacking.


An international, feminist revival is at hand—persistent injustices and new forms of sexism and misogyny are being met with global opposition. Amidst this shift, the Parity Group emerged from a loose network of people frustrated by the gross gender imbalance in our department. With the retirement of several senior faculty in 2015, the department began an official effort to hire nearly ten professors over the course of a four-year period. We saw this as an opportunity to address inequity directly with the institution and demanded that steps be taken towards the equal representation of men and women within the school.


We were, however, aware of our particularly conservative Swiss social context. Women were granted the right to vote in 1971. Gender equality legislation did not come into effect until 1996. But it was only through establishing the Parity Group that we learned just how slow the pace of change had really been. It had taken 130 years from the foundation of the Federal Polytechnic and 114 years from the enrolment of the first female student, Nadezhda Smeckaja, until the ETH saw its first female professor: architect Flora Ruchat-Roncati in 1985. (5) But one does not even have to go that far back in history for this kind of evidence. In her research, Parity Group member Sarah Nichols discovered that more than a third (40 of 108) of all doctoral dissertations at the Institute for the History and Theory of Architecture (gta)—one of four research institutes in ETH Zurich’s architecture department—were written by women. Ever since the first thesis submission by a female scholar in 1986, the number has steadily grown. A success, one might think at first. Yet, since its foundation in 1967, no woman ever held a chair in the Institute, which means that not a single one of these PhD theses had been produced under a female supervisor. While some of the former doctoral students seem to have disappeared completely after earning their degree, a handful have ended up in positions far below their level of qualification. Many others have pursued careers outside ETH Zurich, whether in Swiss Universities of Applied Sciences or abroad. (6) It seems to be instances like these, in which the otherwise deceptively abstract phrase of the “leaky pipeline”—a term describing the ‘unexplained’ loss of educated female staff between bachelor and professor levels—takes on a personal dimension.


On top of the lack of female professors, women architects—both Swiss and foreign—remain conspicuously absent from the curriculum. Unlike their male counterparts, pioneering figures such as Lux Guyer, Flora Steiger-Crawford, or Beate Schnitter are rarely discussed in design studios, lectures, and seminars. The same is true for prominent international modernists such as Eileen Gray, Charlotte Perriand, or Lilly Reich, to name a few. One student reported that Lina Bo Bardi was the only female architect whose work was explicitly mentioned in their experience at the school. How are we to know our future, without knowing our past?

This collective amnesia is not unique to our department. It points to a wider absence and willful erasure of women from mainstream histories of the discipline. Regardless of the requirement inscribed in the ETH Gender Action Plan to “integrate gender-specific aspects in research and teaching,” there exist significant reservations, misconceptions, and anxieties among faculty members around a gender-balanced curriculum. (7) The recently outgoing Dean, Professor Annette Spiro, rejected the need for gender scholarship in architecture. In her opinion, there is no “female or male architecture.”(8) “I must admit,” she expressed, “that I am simply not interested in questions of gender. Important are oeuvre and perception, no matter if the author is a man or a woman.” Yet does this understanding not precisely overlook the inherent gender bias of such categories as oeuvre and authorship, which exclude and suppress the role and contribution of women in the production of the built environment and within a male-dominant framework?


Reclaiming space in the discipline by rewriting history, not in the way the it has been recorded but also in the way that it continues to be formed, means more than just inserting women into an established canon. It requires a total reconstruction of the conceptual and methodological frameworks that underpin it—the consequent and sustained undoing of “master” narratives.




Tuesday, March 5, 2024

Received a message from supervisor who asks about progress. It was she who recommended coming here in the first place. “ETH Zurich—a very peculiar case,” she had warned. A young Associate Professor at the time, she was part of an expanding network of critical architects and intellectuals who realized that improving social justice and diversity in architectural education and practice required a sustained critique of the academic and professional institutions in their structures, operative protocols, and motivations.


Went through plenty of material in just two days. From a distance, the situation seems surreal. Surprisingly little awareness and great reluctance to take action by the department. One can notice the frustration among students and staff. Yet, there also seem to be a sense of urgency and grassroots activism, rigour, creativity, and humour.


 Document 3, n.d.: Poster for “Parity Talks,” designed by Ursina Völlm and Martina Walthert

Document 3, n.d.: Poster for “Parity Talks,” designed by Ursina Völlm and Martina Walthert

 Document 4, March 8, 2016: “Parity Talks” photos

Document 4, March 8, 2016: “Parity Talks” photos


Together, architecture and academia form something impenetrable. Like an ultra-hard block of stone, architectural education is exceptionally resistant to cracks and changes. And more often than not, in trying to secure its disciplinary integrity, the internal power structures of this monolith appear to be working against women. Of course, one can always blame some distant, outside force—an abstract social, political, or economic context that first has to change in order for academia to follow suit. But this would mean overlooking the inherent contradictions and struggles within the institution itself.


In our Parity Group meetings, symposia, and workshops in 2016 and 2017 in particular, there have been heated discussions as to what might be the possible structural causes for the cultural obliviousness to gender bias. From the way in which job profiles are written to the hard and fast criteria for excellence, there appears to be little awareness about the ways in which the system of the architectural academia is pitted against women. The Swiss context of the discipline translates in valuing constructed work above anything else, and architectural practice disadvantages women. The fast track to build work does not depend only on talent and hard work but largely relies on factors such as social networks (i.e. “the Old Boys Club”), personal capital, and trusting clients, all of which tend to be less available to women. As an example, the culture of long working hours while women overwhelmingly bear the weight of family care signifies that they are less likely to stay late at the office for the sake of promotion. Too often, these systemic issues are maintained in scholarship in the name of integrity and rigour. Within academia, the size of an oeuvre is often analogous to its degree of excellence. A reverence for the number of buildings an architect produces in their lifetime, as well as admiration towards achievements at a young age, are among these standards that put women architects at an automatic disadvantage. Often, their work is barred from even being considered a subject worth studying as it’s too little, too late. Women tend to realize buildings later and at a slower pace than their male colleagues. As philosophers Isabelle Stengers and Vinciane Despret have warned:

[c]ompetition and the will to excel […] are today officially on the agenda as unavoidable imperatives. […] Knowledge worthy of this name must not fear evaluation, they say to us, and this evaluation must be objective: how many articles, published in which journals? How many contracts? How many collaborations with other prestigious institutions, thus contributing to the “positioning” of the university in the European or global market? (9)

However, numerous studies have exposed how evaluation procedures frequently reproduce rather than remove existing gender biases and contribute to sustaining sexism and gender-based discrimination in the academy.(10) For instance, male lecturers are frequently ranked higher by their students than women for no obvious professional reasons. (11) In architecture, such an underlying bias may indeed be further amplified by socially constructed and historically cultivated notions of “mastery” or “creative genius,” often regarded as masculine treats.




Wednesday, March 6, 2024

Invitation from one of the Chairs in Architecture and Design to give an impromptu studio talk about my research on women in architecture. “As required by the curriculum…,” the message started. Where to begin? What to tell them? Last night, the archivist took me out for a drink in the city. Met one of her friends, who has been running an office with two other female ETH graduates for nearly a decade. “We were either in the middle of, or just about to, start our Master’s projects when the Parity Group started,” they said. “Only one of us went back to teach as an Assistant for a while.” Decided to take the entire class to their office to see first-hand a “female practice.” Impressive work!


 Document 5, dated March 3, 2017: NOMAS power lunch “Women in Academia” at MIT

Document 5, dated March 3, 2017: NOMAS power lunch “Women in Academia” at MIT

 Document 6, dated June 8, 2016: special issue of Archithese “Architektur, die [fem.], Baukultur ist auch weiblich!,” no. 2 (2016)

Document 6, dated June 8, 2016: special issue of Archithese “Architektur, die [fem.], Baukultur ist auch weiblich!,” no. 2 (2016)


During one of the roundtable discussions at the first Parity Talks, Karin Sander highlighted how important solidarity and cooperation had been in the early stages of her career as an artist. In many ways, the Parity Group was motivated by a similar ethics of self-help and collaboration. Tired of the fiction that there aren’t enough talented women out there, two group members—Charlotte Malterre-Barthes and Harald R. Stühlinger—set out on an urgent and immediately practical task: to establish a Swiss database of women in architecture, aimed at all those involved in inviting guest speakers, programming lecture series, setting up search committees for the appointment of chairs, and drawing up lists of suitable candidates for professorships. This list was then published as a special issue of Archithese in June 2016.(12)


Lacking institutional support and a discipline-specific expertise on gender, we eagerly turned to like-minded, active, international groups on architecture and gender. The work of these groups has been a constant source of inspiration and empowerment. They include Australian association “Parlour - Women, Equity, Architecture,” (13) Justine Clark and the “Feminist Art and Architecture Collaborative (FAAC),” (14) and a group of scholars at KTH Stockholm. This last group had sought to establish an ambitious gender-based curriculum in the Technical University’s architecture department under the direction of Malin Åberg Wennerholm. They treated feminist thinking as integral to architectural design, history, and theory, which they explore through the work of Hélène Frichot, among others. Following her invitation, Parity Group members Torsten Lange and Emily Eliza Scott chaired a roundtable discussion on architecture and feminist pedagogies at the “Architecture and Feminisms” themed annual conference of the Architectural Humanities Research Association (AHRA). (15)


On a separate track, a research team consisting of Eliana Perotti, Katrin Albrecht, Helene Bihlmaier, Irina Davidovici, and Katia Frey, also engaged in the activities of the Parity Group, investigates the life and work of Flora Ruchat-Roncati within the framework of a major Swiss National Scientific Fund-funded project, thus undertaking the long-due task of gender-oriented studies in architecture at ETHZ. (16)




Thursday, March 7, 2024

Day four. The tedious side of research: filing an interim research report. Doing this research trip on a grant for emerging female scholars in architecture. Recall how my supervisor recently told me that access to scholarships from this fund helped launch her career. But, the levels of bureaucracy…must finish this quickly! Only one day left and still have hours of video and audio recordings of the Parity Group workshops to go through. Why on Earth would anyone create such long and complex online forms to fill in? Those useless heaps of data…



 Document 7, dated April 20, 2016: “9 Points for Parity”

Document 7, dated April 20, 2016: “9 Points for Parity”

 Document 8, dated March 8, 2017: “Parity Talks II” photos

Document 8, dated March 8, 2017: “Parity Talks II” photos


Information is power. Knowledge and data are key to providing arguments for policies. However, what is recorded and how is not neutral. Devising plans and formulating goals constitute political activities by default. They need to be publicly debated with those most directly affected by the plans. For they are the true experts.


Right from the start, our work focused on designing concrete measures to improve gender parity at all levels of the department, but especially in the appointment procedure of professors. (17) As early as June 2015, through a collaborative process among assistants, we identified five key measures. They included the production of a directory of female practitioners and scholars, now available as a resource. They included a double award system for Master and PhD theses, doubling guest professorships, a travel fund for incoming and outgoing female teaching assistants, and more precise data on gender in the department beyond the basic monitoring by ETH Equal every two years. (18) Figures on female representation in studio critiques, public talks, and panel discussions must be established, and are vital to increasing the visibility of women as role models for the students.


Those aspects, among others, were summarized in “9 Points for Parity,” the major outcome of the first Parity Talks in 2016. The “9 Points” represent a comprehensive set of measures in line with the general principles of the ETH Zurich Gender Action Plan of 2014 and in response to the specific needs of our department. The points were published in Hochparterre, accompanied by an interview of the Dean at the time Annette Spiro. (19) Yet internally, a bizarre silence prevailed. Over the course of the year, none of our proposed measures were adopted. No doubt, the department was going through a challenging and difficult phase as many appointment procedures ran in parallel. But gender parity—which we had argued was fundamental to those appointments—slipped down the agenda. “We have too few female applicants,” was the Dean’s rather matter-of-fact response. Yet, echoes from search committees for new faculty suggested that the appointment process was tainted by a blatant underlying gender bias, from shortlisting and invitation criteria of candidates through to applicant evaluation (i.e. “She is not famous enough”), to incidents of “mansplaining,” of female committee members talked down.


As the year drew to a close, it became clearer that none of the “9 Points” would be realized by the department. The nomination of Parity Delegates from all three faculty groups (students, assistants, and professors) was the only exception. We decided to organize a second Parity Talks symposium and workshop in March 2017 and, again, the department supported this event from the start. The goal was to facilitate an open discussion of our proposed measures, first and foremost with all members from our department and with external experts on gender and diversity. We were eager to hear from both these groups on how viable and effective they thought our suggestions would be and to gather further support for our initiative. In four parallel roundtable discussions, each of them covering two to three measures, the “9 Points” were developed in more detail. The resulting annotated list of measures should now become the basis for the final set of measures that will make it into the Department’s Gender Action Plan.




Friday, March 8, 2024

Last day on Hönggerberg. Morning coffee with the archivist. Rumors have been spreading, she tells me, that the Executive Board overturned the department’s recommendation for a young woman to be appointed as successor of one of the outgoing female design professors. Apparently, it’s been decided—another man with a busy practice is going to fill her position. There’s a spontaneous walk-out from classes and studios. A leaflet by the staff and student associations is passed around the crowd that has gathered on the square in front of the building. “17 % in 170 years—half a millennium to reach 50 %? Parity now! Openness, Transparency, Accountability,” it reads. Someone had pinned up “Miss Mies” and her sisters, the old Parity Talks posters. “Here we are, again,” the archivist says, “standing together on International Women’s Day, talking about the same thing. Denial is no longer an option.”


 Document 9, dated January 31, 2017 & February 8, 2017: e-mail correspondence “WE DON’T HAVE A GENDER PROBLEM”

Document 9, dated January 31, 2017 & February 8, 2017: e-mail correspondence “WE DON’T HAVE A GENDER PROBLEM”

Mathers_Image 12.jpg
 Document 10, dated May 3, 2017: “Proposal for the implementation of the Gender Action Plan at D-ARCH”

Document 10, dated May 3, 2017: “Proposal for the implementation of the Gender Action Plan at D-ARCH”


It would be futile to add up the countless hours, lunch meetings, and late nights spent on Parity Group work. Being critical of our institution was a call of duty. It meant caring for its past, present, and future. However, there were several situations in which we experienced what we affectionately came to call “parity fatigue.” Moments when we simply wanted to give up. Making trouble is not much fun. Especially if one’s career hangs on a thin thread. Employment is precarious and the pressure to stay focused on one’s career as a researcher and teacher keeps mounting—in addition the endless goals of increasing one’s performance and production.


Why even bother? Shouldn’t we just “stop that c[rap],” as one angered male student had advised us in an email? In Trump-style capitals, he argued that “WE DON’T HAVE A GENDER PROBLEM,” so “stop making problems where there is [sic] none.” Yet we knew, as many others did, that there were problems. That, contrary to the student’s assertion, not “every individual, male or female, has the same opportunities to become a professor at ETH.” Like many others whom we personally invited to engage in the discussion, the student chose not to participate in any of our events.


True, we did receive messages of support and expressions of sympathy, too. But were we being coopted? Had we become, without noticing it, a shining example for how well bottom-up initiatives function. Were we a fig-leaf merely covering the lack of attention, structure, and action from above? In an institution like ours that is inherently transitory, where fresh cohorts of students and assistants come and go in six-year cycles, how can one fulfil the concomitant tasks to “make trouble, to stir up potent responses […] as well as to settle troubled waters and rebuild quiet places”(20) without losing energy, momentum, knowledge, and expertise – without starting from scratch each time?


This is why, on May 3, 2017, we asked the Professor’s Conference and the department’s Conference the following week to vote on a proposal to introduce a Gender Action Plan in our department and to create a Parity Board supported by the Board of Deans and department’s administrative staff, whose task will be the development and implementation of this plan. Since then, it has been in their hands.



Isn’t it surprising that urgent questions of gender and diversity at ETH Zurich are left for individual initiatives to address? Why was so little done prior to our engagement? Is institutional inertia inherent to big institutions? And what will happen now? While “making a fuss” here at the department, one can’t help but think about Audre Lorde’s famous phrase: “The master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.” (21) But the cynicism of that terrifying sentence must not be taken as a shutdown. It is true that many aspects in Swiss society still have to change before women will be able to take their seats at the table, starting with the way family and childcare are understood. The work undertaken by the Parity Group cannot fix that. But a discussion has been launched and there is no turning back now; change must happen.


Many signs are pointing in the right direction. Of the three fixed-term Visiting Lectureships recently awarded to young Swiss architectural firms, two include women. Two open positions in the faculty were split into four, allowing the appointment of An Fonteyne and Momoyo Kaijima alongside Arno Brandlhuber and Jan De Vylder. And Anne Lacaton, another acclaimed female architect, has been appointed Professor for Architecture and Design, thus doubling within one year the number of chairs held by women in the school. Furthermore, students have started to engage in activism—for instance criticizing all-male panels as a recurrent issue at the Department—indicative of a rising awareness among the student body, and a possible warning of  brewing dissent and dissatisfaction with the status quo. (22) Even more encouraging, the Department Faculty voted on December 6, 2017, for a quota for parity at final critiques and lecture series, a concrete measure that might finally take the school into the twenty-first century. (23)


 Unknown, “A heart for parity,” postcard and action, November 2017, ETHZ

Unknown, “A heart for parity,” postcard and action, November 2017, ETHZ

This article (and our work more broadly) has taken inspiration from Belgian philosophers Isabelle Stengers and Vinciane Despret who, as part of a collective of female scholars, call on their colleagues to confront persistent injustices within and beyond academic institutions, question their careers, and examine their roles and responsibilities as women intellectuals.


  1. Jane Rendell, Site-writing: The Architecture of Art Criticism (London: IB Tauris, 2010).

  2. Ibid., 18.

  3. On the women in the professional association SIA. See: Beatrice Aebi, “Frauen in die Kommissionen!” Tec 21, 42 (2016): 24.

  4. Prof. Dr. Renate Schubert and Honorata Kaczykowski-Patermann, “Gender Monitoring 2013/14: Departementsbericht Architektur,” EHTzürich, accessed July 1,2017,

  5. “History of women at ETH,” EHT Zürich, accessed July 1, 2017,

  6. Bettina Köhler, who spent a considerable amount of time at the Institute gta (however, without obtaining her PhD there), first as a Research Assistant, then as an Assistant Professor for History and Theory of Architecture moved on to a professorship at FHNW Muttenz. Maia Engeli, former Assistant Professor for Architecture and CAAD holds a professorship in Canada. Their career paths (for reasons that would require further investigation) led away from the school in the early 2000s, when Flora Ruchat-Roncati retired from her Professorship in Architecture and Design. For the profiles of those three female professors at D-ARCH (out of sixteen at ETH during the mid-1990s), see: Stelle für Chancengleichheit von Mann und Frau an der ETH Zürich, “Wege in die Wissenschaft. Professorinnen an der ETH Zürich – 16 Portraits” (Zürich: Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule Zürich, 1997).

  7. ETH Zürich, “Gender Action Plan, 2014,” accessed July 1, 2017,

  8. Rahel Marti, “Wir haben zu wenig Bewerberinnen,” in Hochparterre, 9 (2016).

  9. Isabelle Stengers and Vinciane Despret, Women Who Make a Fuss: The Unfaithful Daughters of Virginia Woolf (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota, 2014), 15–16.

  10. “Gender Bias in Academe: An Annotated Bibliography of Important Recent Studies,” January 26, 2015, accessed July 1, 2017,

  11. Jules Holroyd and Jennifer Saul, “Will the Teaching Excellence Framework be sexist?,” The Guardian, April 4, 2016, accessed July 1, 2017,

  12. Charlotte Malterre-Barthes and Harald R. Stühlinger, eds., “Architektur, die [fem.], Baukultur ist auch weiblich!,” special issue, Archithese, 2 (2016).

  13. Parlour: women, equity, architecture, accessed July 1, 2017,

  14. FAAC- Feminist Art & Architecture Collective, accessed June 4, 2018,

  15. Torsten Lange and Emily Eliza Scott, “Making Trouble to Stay With: Architecture and Feminist Pedagogies” Field: A Free Journal of Architecture 1, 3 (2017): 84–100.

  16. See Eliana Perotti, Katrin Albrecht, Helene Bihlmaier, Irina Davidovici, and Katia Frey, Flora Ruchat-Roncati at ETH Zurich 1985–2002. Professor, Planner, Theoretician, accessed July 1, 2017,

  17. Michael Kuratli, “Falsch gebaute Karriereleiter,” ZS – Zürcher Studierendenzeitung 14 (September 2015), accessed July 1, 2017,

  18. ETH Equal (originally Frauenanlaufstelle) is the organ in charge of “equal opportunities” within the ETH Zurich. However, the structure is underequipped to face the challenges ahead. With three part-time staff members and little budget of its own, ETH Equal appears a mere alibi. While giving the impression that gender and diversity are priorities for the institution, the structure simply does not have the means to do much more than basic monitoring and career counseling. ETH female staff have even criticized the latter, because it appears Equal’s efforts are concentrated on prepping women for job interviews rather than tackling structural discrimination and institutional core issues. For instance, Equal leaves it up to the deans of each department to implement the Gender Action Plan it drafted. It also relies extensively on private initiatives and individuals’ forces within departments to push the gender and diversity agenda, partially explaining why so little progress has been achieved since its creation in 1991.

  19. Marti, “Wir haben zu wenig Bewerberinnen.”

  20. Ibid.

  21. Audre Lorde, “The Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master’s House,” in This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color (New York: Kitchen Table Press, 1983), 94–101.

  22. A postcard depicting an all-male panel on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the institute of theory of architecture (gta) was sent to all the faculty asking “Can you find the mistake?”
  23. This article (and our work more broadly) has taken inspiration from Belgian philosophers Isabelle Stengers and Vinciane Despret who, as part of a collective of female scholars, call on their colleagues to confront persistent injustices within and beyond academic institutions, question their careers, and examine their roles and responsibilities as women intellectuals.


The Parity Group is an informal organization of people engaged in the topic of gender parity and diversity at the Architecture Department at ETH Zurich. It includes, among others, the current Parity Delegates Torsten Lange, Charlotte Malterre-Barthes, and Eliana Perotti.