Women Architects - How Are We Doing?

Last Friday, I was honored to introduce Billie Tsien of Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects|Partners at an AIA Women in Architecture event. Her candid remarks were inspirational for an audience of primarily women architects and intern architects. 

On November 11th, I will be moderating a panel of Women in Architecture and Education including Marion Weiss, Partner, Weiss Manfredi and Deborah Gans, Principal, Gans studio as part of the AIA Global Dialogues. Billie, Marion and Deborah are at the top of the game of architecture.

AIANY GLOBAL DIALOGUES – 2015 theme: Architect, d.b.a LEANING OUT III: on Women in Architecture and Education

As I think of these women I reflect on an article I read in the Wall Street Journal several weeks ago entitled, “What’s Holding Women Back in the Workplace?” The article, by Nikki Waller and Joann S. Lublin, gave disheartening statistics about women in the corporate C-Suite – very little progress if any over the last few years – no surprise. 

Despite support at the top, gender equality is a long way off at most U.S. companies. A study by Lean In and McKinsey reveals why—and what employees and companies can do about it.

So how are we women doing in architecture?  

If we look at the Missing 32% Study, Equity by Design, the findings are grim. “While nearly half of today’s graduates from architecture programs are women, they make up only 20% of practitioners and 17% of partners or principals in architecture firms (AIA 2014 Firm Survey Report).” And yet we have women architects like the three mentioned in the article above who have broken the mold.  What makes them able to succeed where others stop trying?

For a seismic paradigm shift in understanding and hope, read "Gender Intelligence" by Barbara Annis and Keith Merron. Their premise: “What if the solution isn’t eliminating the differences between men and women themselves, but instead learning how to recognize, value, and leverage those differences?”

"As men and women come to understand each others ways of thinking and acting, they step up to a new and powerful level of conversation. They begin to include each other more confidently and more willingly."

As architects who profess to be changing the world through our work, can we start at home and look closely at how we embrace diversity in our own practices: listening to, including and promoting all of the voices?

I look forward to the conversation on November 11th, and expect to get new insight and perspective from Marion, Deborah and the other panelists.  And I look forward to sharing what I learn in a follow up post. For now, please share your thoughts!


Jane Smith, Partner

Jane SmithHelen Zouvelekis