‘Can I Beat Them All’? The Never Ending Question

Founding Principal, Yvonne von Hartel AM shares her journey, trials and tribulations as a woman within the architecture profession. Yvonne’s story, her success, and the lessons she’s learnt throughout her career, bring to light the challenges, specifically for women, to thrive in what is still a predominately male-dominated field. As a trailblazer, she has paved the way for more women to receive opportunities and recognition for the work they do in the modern construction industry.

Studying Architecture at Melbourne University, Yvonne was one of fifteen women in a cohort of one hundred and thirty-three, a ratio of male to female students not uncommon in industries like architecture, engineering, and construction. Yvonne pioneered her own way, persevering and eliminating self-doubt. “In a class of 133… knowing you must compete with them… constantly thinking can I beat them all? That is the never-ending question.” The career pathway to successfully becoming a registered architect, is time-consuming. Commitments of a high-demanding career like architecture see few students successfully become fully registered and women carry a greater conflict in other societal pressures.

Upon the completion of her tertiary education, Yvonne began her career working for one of the largest and most revered commercial firms of the time, Yuncken Freeman. She succeeded in not only a male-dominated profession but during a period when inequalities in the workforce were ever-present. Although Yvonne did not intend to be a trailblazer, the truth of women in this field “really sank in when you went out into the workforce” a lack of mentors, examples and precedence was prevalent for women graduates to take guidance from.

Yvonne has taken her own personal and professional life experiences to provide opportunities for other women not only within architecture but in all business ventures. Through the foundation of peckvonhartel, Yvonne strives to promote and provide opportunities for women in all areas of business. The creation of the Queen Victoria Women’s Centre (QVWC) “provides a space for women to connect onsite and online.” In 2007 Yvonne was awarded a Member of the Order of Australia for ‘services to architecture, design and building through involvement with a range of professional organisations, to the promotion of women in business, and to the community.’

Yvonne has spent a considerable time throughout her career, teaching and lecturing at the University of Melbourne, being the example and precedent for the young women in architecture she did not have in her time, “I’ve learnt a lot, and I hope I’ve taught others the things I have learnt.” Yvonne’s dedication to the Architecture Industry highlights her values of hard work ethic, education, and the promotion of women in business.