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These numbers are expected to continue to grow, with women comprising 40% of emerging professionals on the path to licensure. Groups like the AIA San Francisco’s Equity by Design initiative have sought to better understand the barriers to higher retention and success rates by women and people of color in architecture, and a new study examines the impacts of caregiving, student debt, pay equity, and workplace values in retaining and supporting diverse talent. I like to think of each built Mary Barensfeld Architecture project as a stake in the ground along women’s march towards equality in the design fields.

If we defined our profession by its influence and not by its contractual tasks, we would likely find that there are many women already in leadership roles. I see many amazing and talented female students in the university, but only a fraction will remain in the profession years from now. While some of them have leadership roles in ways we traditionally define practice, many are doing amazing things in the public sector through advocacy, technology, education, or other related fields.

We need a big tent for architecture that includes people who have chosen to contribute in ways beyond the legal definition of “architect.” Language matters, and as long as we define these career paths as “alternative” or “nontraditional,” we are missing an opportunity to capture the true influence and scope of contributions of women in our profession. For Mondor, “it is a design that makes previously invisible relationships visible by connecting people and places.” The project received AIA PGH and PA awards in 2018. Inter*ARCHITECTURE co-founder Jennifer Lucchino speaks to Nina Barbuto’s Architecture for Non-Majors class from Carnegie Mellon University at Assemble with the contractor, Chad Sipes from Sipes & Son, about a shipping container project that they designed for Heather Mallak.

The main message that I would give to women in the architecture and design fields is similar to what Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the US House of Representatives articulated shortly after ascending to the speakership this past January: “I say to women, know your power.” She went on to emphasize the importance of being knowledgeable of your field, including why you are doing it, so that you can speak with authority and confidence, show your vision and develop a plan to achieve it in order to attract others.

Ivette Mongalo-Winston working with high school students to expose them to the fields of architecture and urban design. My non-traditional path from architect to policy-maker is partially the result of women encouraging me to take that next step and to fight for better outcomes for everyone.

Ivette Mongalo-Winston and her daughter, Sophia, her “inspiration for focusing on women in leadership.” Courtesy of MonWin Consulting. We have a long way to go to break the association of wisdom and accomplishment with male role models.

My personal and professional life has been shaped by strong women with a tendency to stay out of the public eye.

Deby is the invisible force behind the talent and rigor of many contemporary architects like Nanako Umemoto, Laurie Hawkinson, and Hani Rashid. She is a mentor, educator, critic, and detail genius whose work is beautiful, mysterious, and soulful. She taught me that the traditional notion of professional practice can be overwritten by a sense of design with empathy.

As founder Dana Cupkova describes, “Epiphyte Lab’s first built project in Pittsburgh was a Thai restaurant Senyai, produced collaboratively with CMU architecture students. The design was centered on a ceiling inspired by the vaulted geometry of ancient Thai architecture. The geometry is formed by a series of 275 unique vertical slats that suggest a continuous surface as a backdrop for light and sound. I believe that the best projects are the ones where the shared experience of creating them goes beyond the personal sense of accomplishment and towards collective enjoyment.” Photo: Massery Photography.

Finding a way to rise through the ranks or establish a work-life balance that allowed for flexible scheduling—to raise children and teach part-time at a university, for example—did not seem possible in a traditional office. We believe that more flexibility in work schedules, without docking upward mobility, would greatly aid everyone in the profession.

Dining room of Superior Motors, Braddock, PA, completed by Studio for Spatial Practice in July 2017. SfSP partners Christine Brill and Jen Gallagher say, “We love to work with other women when we can! We collaborated with on Superior Motors with Standard + Custom, an architectural products and furniture design-build company founded by Lexi Chung and Filip Agren.” Photo: Jonathan Kline. Although architectural schools achieved balance in gender some time ago, women are becoming more visible in leadership roles in larger firms. Since architecture is a team effort, improved recognition of all the talented people involved can particularly benefit women architects who may not be the named partner on a project.

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