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Stop asking where all the female architects are; we’re right here

by Julia Gamolina • The Architect’s Newspaper • December 21, 2018

In December 2018, in the New York Times Opinion Section, Allison Arieff asked, “Where Are All the Female Architects?”

In The Architect’s Newspaper, Julia Gamolina, the founder and editor of Madame Architect, said, “We’re right here.”

Ms. Gamolina said, “Instead of asking ‘Where are these women?’ start writing about them and telling their unique stories.” Which is exactly what she has done in Madame Architect, and what she encourages more of us to do.

Brava!

I had neglected to reply to Ms. Arieff’s original article, but I took the opportunity to post my comments to Ms. Gamolina’s article in ArchPaper —

I was excited when Julia Gamolina began publishing Madame Architect, and I’m delighted to know about some of the other platforms that are focused on women in architecture. I am also delighted when someone like Anne Fletcher is recognized by her firm and is promoted to a significant leadership role. (Anne recently relocated from HOK NYC to become Managing Principal of their Los Angeles practice.)

In 1991, Architecture magazine (yes, Architecture), published an article about women in “corporate” architectural firms. There was a very short list (8). That article about design firm leadership would be quite different today. But there’s a much bigger story.

There is still a very high percentage — perhaps 75% — of “small firms” (15 or fewer employees) represented by members of AIA, and there’s no doubt that many of those firm leaders are women. But what has changed dramatically is the number (and proportion) of women who are not only employed by larger firms, but who have moved and are moving into leadership and executive leadership roles in those firms, not just in design. Carole Wedge commented here, and she and her firm are excellent examples; however, they are definitely not alone. Although there continue to be firms with an abundance of male faces on their “leadership” webpages, there are thousands of women in leadership roles at the highest levels of architectural practice, and they have a huge impact on the future of the corporate, commercial, institutional, and residential sectors within our built environment.

As management consultants, my partners and I work with our clients to help them create roadmaps for the future. Part of that is understanding the complex responsibility of leadership at all levels of the organization, as well as the combination of talents and points of view that are necessary to achieve success.

On the recruiting side of our business, we have the opportunity to speak with people who are able to bring new dimensions to existing and developmental roles within our clients’ firms. For the past 30 years, we have intentionally reached out to women and others whose voices, intellect, and experience will make a difference.

There have been many published articles in the business world about the value of having women at the highest levels of leadership. California has become the first state to require women on corporate boards of publicly traded companies.

Our world is changing. We are facing a future filled with uncertainty and disruption. I predict that the design firms that succeed will have a breadth of diversity among their leadership that will allow them to think differently about themselves, their clients, and their world.

Each of us has the opportunity to make a huge difference to so many people every day, whether personally or professionally. For more information about Talentstar, please visit our ABOUT page.

~ Marjanne Pearson, Founder + Chief
Update – March 2021:
  • Julia Gamolina is currently Director of Strategy with Trahan Architects in NYC.
  • Ruth Gless provided a copy of the October 1991 article in Architecture, and details about the article have been updated.
  • The AIA Women’s Leadership Summit, held in September 2019, broke records and norms, with more than 750 architects and designers at the biennial event.
  • Photograph by Joe Szurszewski, published with the article on the AIA Women’s Leadership Summit.
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