In early March, a few days before International Women’s’ Day, AIA San Francisco and its Communications Committee hosted “The divergent practice: Finding your path in architecture”. Four women – self-described urbanista Stephanie Goodson, set designer Claire Pritchett-Hanlon, exhibit designer Monica Ramirez-Montagut and environmental designer Kate Waddick - shared their stories of professional struggles and successes in a conversation moderated by Sydnie Kohara.
More specifically, these women – all architecture school graduates, including some former practitioners who may be considered as part of the Missing 32%, discussed why they pursued non-traditional career paths and how other women (and men) also can. Common to the women was a desire to pursue paths which are personally significant to each of them: Stephanie's love for cities, their challenges and their possibilities spurred her to create NOMADGardens. While Claire found in the world of fashion, the career satisfaction she was missing in traditional practice.
Monica was interested in small scale projects and a desire for professional challenge; and Kate’s job designing healthy environments aligns with her health challenges, in this case, allergies.
So how did they do it? Their short-list does not provide all the answers, but it’s a start.
- Be rigorous – Research your interests.
- Find your community through LinkedIn and other similar social media.
- Look at business models, not jobs or industries, for what’s viable.
- Look ahead to what’s next outside of architecture, figure out how this impacts the profession and how you can evolve whether within or outside of the profession.
- Speak up at work and within your community (see #2).
- Create a list of pros and cons for remaining in traditional practice or taking a divergent path.
- Seize opportunities even though the timing may not seem right.
- Follow through.
The mission of The Missing 32% Project is to reposition architecture through equitable practice. This event encouraged the discourse of successful divergent career paths. Inclusion and respect of these alternative options outside of traditional architectural practice is a way to champion equity, I would suggest, and most vital to the profession’s evolution.
By Lisa Boquiren