Women in Charge // Meredith Stoll
Starting from a young age women are raised to believe that they are built to be a house wife and raise a plethora of children, but when reflecting upon the Millennial generation, the shift between gender stereotypes has produced a pronounced difference. Now, women are seen as up and coming competitors to our male counterparts. As young, ambitious women motivated to compete with males for leadership positions, we see ourselves stepping outside our comfort zone. Within the architecture field the male/female ratio has been pronounced, however that seems to be changing.
In a 2012 AIA Survey, it was stated that only 16% of AIA members were female and only 17% were in leading roles of a firm, such as principals or partners. How is it that “for three decades, more woman than men have graduated from college,” yet represent such a small percentage of leadership positions? It seems that women have hit a glass ceiling. Shown by the numbers it proves that obtaining a position of power is attainable. Do women still see men as a threat or is it society that informs our decision to not achieve these roles? Architecture in general has always been a male dominated field and female architects such as Julie Snow, Andrea Leers, Ann Beha and Zaha Hadid, have defied the stereotype.
Leading ladies in any company have proven to the world that just because of our Y chromosome we can make it to the top, while contending against men for the same positions. Sheryl Sandberg, author of Lean In and COO of Facebook, is one of these women. She stated in a recent article that she does not like to be considered “management.” She likes to say that “she has the gift of making other feel their contribution is significant.” When analyzing the traits of men and women, females tend to be more sympathetic and competitive, which provides a needed perspective within the workplace. Within the architecture setting women also are apt to design and respond to spaces differently. The different perspectives and traits that women bring to the table provide a necessary balance within the work setting.
When reflecting upon all of the stereotypes and challenges that women face, I can relate to the struggle a young woman faces when entering the architecture profession. Within the Design+Make Studio women are outnumbered by men 2:1. As personalities have evolved over the past years, I have emerged into a leadership role within our class and now in our studio. Bouncing between three projects, I have learned how to not only manage time, but also to lead people. I have taken it upon myself to act as the schedule manager for two teams and I have learned that it takes much more than telling people what to do to coordinate a successful team and project. Creating nothing but to-do lists and coordinating schedules is just as important as the work being completed. One rule that Sandberg lives by is “ruthlessly prioritize,” and I completely agree with that statement. Establishing prioritizes and deadlines is key to any project’s success. As goals are attained and the project nears completion, the success of a leader begins to emerge. Women establishing themselves as leaders within their firm are crucial to not only their personal development, but also societal growth. As graduation encroaches on my short lived university experience, the knowledge and skills I have gained have been vital to my development as a woman within the architecture profession.
As young women begin to establish themselves within any profession, they have to remember to push the limits, be willing to step outside their comfort zone and push beyond the fact that people doubt their success.
Written by Meredith Stoll