Having a supportive family is not enough! I was discouraged by relatives from taking up architecture as a career because it is not a ‘women’s field’. Females might not be able to take the intensity. During graduation, I lost the election for college representative on the grounds of being a woman. The campaign was run on the grounds of gender: females are not easy going. I was denied a job after graduation because I had no fixed plans for my marriage and it was assumed that I might leave the firm once I get married. In my first job, I was denied site visits and was asked to take care of the office because I might not be able to manage both site work and in-office work. During my first collaborative architectural project, the contractor did not make changes at site unless my male project partner asked him to do so. In one of the projects the female client asked me to manipulate information rather than discuss things logically. She thought it might be okay with me because us females are okay with manipulation. Such incidences were many a times considered as a part of everyday struggle without realising denial of opportunities and fair chance on the basis of assumptions made about one as a ‘female’ without giving a chance to the individual to grow or to prove oneself.
I stepped out of the conventional form of practice to independent and collaboration mode because it offered freedom of choice - to choose varied projects and to choose projects where my work and individual qualities are considered. I would rather spend time refining my craft so that my work speaks and inspires than fight obdurateness.
This mode of work gives the freedom to choose direction, pace, diversity, intensity, involvement in time and energy, place of work in career. This opened up interesting opportunities which one might not come across if one is in a fixed job or role. On the other hand, this mode of work can be exhausting as one has to constantly strive and plan for projects so that one can make their ends meet. Constant scheduling and rescheduling, changing roles in different projects, periods of intense work and periods of no or less work, moving places can be energy draining. As this mode of working is designed for flexibility, family and friends might take you and your time for granted. Sometimes people mistake this flexibility of opportunities and in time and label it as having a frivolous career. And this is ‘okay’ because I am a female as I do not have to take serious financial responsibility of my family.
One has to constantly justify the passion, put the extreme extra effort to make ends meet at personal and professional level, assert or dominate, even if it is not in your nature just to prove peoples’ assumptions wrong, your strength and ability and mostly make people see you for your work and not for your gender.
Mugdha Pargunde did her B.Arch from BKPS COA (Pune University) in 2012 and her Master’s degree in Sustainable Architecture from CEPT University in 2015. Since her graduation, she has worked with SDM Architects, Mumbai and Design Studio, Pune. Currently, she works as a Visiting Faculty at Schools of Architecture in Ahmedabad, Pune and Solapur. She also works on independent architecture, interior, furniture projects including government projects. She collaborates with film-makers, social organizations and other architects to conduct workshops and documentation projects.