We need more women to enter the construction industry. I am not saying this because I want to empower my daughters to know they can do any job they decide they want to take on – which they can. I am not saying this because our industry is facing unemployment rates that most industry professionals refer to as “full employment” – meaning the only possible new employee I can get to work here is from another firm. I am not saying this because I want to increase diversity in our profession – which is extremely important. We need more women to enter the construction industry because they are equal in talent, skill, and knowledge to men and there is no advantage for one gender to dominate this profession.
NBC29 in Charlottesville highlighted Abbie Norton that is working on a CATEC house we designed this school year. The interview discussed the growth of interest from females in the construction trades. I hope Ms. Norton does stay in the industry after graduation and does not switch over to a medical degree – she is exactly who we need in construction.
Our firm has a nice balance – 50% female and 50% male. We all bring different skills and abilities to the table making us a dynamic team that can take on most any challenge. Our diverse backgrounds and experiences adds to our design abilities. The fact that we are 50% / 50% makes us a better firm.
According to the New York Times, women also account for half of the graduates from architecture programs, but make up only 20% of the licensed architects in the industry. The article does not give any reason why this is the case, but points to the need for systemic changes in our industry culture. Some simple things that could be changed include safety equipment designed for both genders – most safety gloves for instance are designed for larger male hands. When a female architect is in the room she is often viewed as working for the male colleague – this is not the case on our team in many instances. Deborah often is the lead and I am in a support role. We need to be clear with our clients and consultants who is taking on which role in a project.
“Architecture is a great career to be in – you get to meld problem solving, design, art, and science together into one profession. Women should be encouraged just as much as men to enter interesting fields where they can make a difference and combine many of their interests and skills, and being an architect, or an engineer, or a land surveyor, or any number of careers in the construction industry all meet those requirements. On the construction industry side, why would you ever want to cut your available and skilled resource pool in half? Women offer many viewpoints and skills that are being left on the table and not being utilized in an industry that could certainly use them. On a purely personal note, I’d love to be in more project meetings where I’m not the only woman in the room.” ~ Deborah Smith, AIA, CSI
The men reading this blog should act deliberately to empower the women that surround them. Encourage them to speak up and take leadership roles in your business / firm / on the construction site. Make sure that your preconceived notions are not holding back the talent that you have on your team. When someone calls to do an interview, get your female architects to answer questions (even when they are introverts – it is good growth). Let your clients know that your team is balanced and has incredible talent both male and female.