Newsletter | Jan/Feb 2016

What You Can Do to Help Women in Architecture and Design

by Naomi Horowitz
Tell Women’s Stories:

The work of women architects is less likely to be recognized and recorded. You may not have the time to write a book or to make a film like Lutah, which members recently viewed. However, there is another medium more approachable to you as a writer and likely to be viewed by many readers: Wikipedia. If you’re already experienced in writing and editing Wikipedia articles, dive right in. Otherwise, some training is recommended. The Association of Women Architects (AWA) in Los Angeles, has recently held a #wikiD writing workshop. We are looking into the possibility of offering something similar here. Let us know if you would like to be involved by emailing our program coordinators. You can find contact information at

Preserve Your Own legacy:

One great way to do this is through the International Archive of Women in Architecture at Virginia Tech. According to their website: “The purpose of the Archive is to document the history of women’s contributions to the built environment by collecting, preserving, and providing access to the records of women’s architectural organizations and the professional papers of women architects, landscape architects, designers, architectural historians and critics, and urban planners.” The IAWA “welcomes materials documenting all generations of women in architecture in order to fill serious gaps in the availability of primary source materials for architectural, women’s, and social history research.” This is especially relevant to our members who are retiring. Give posterity a chance to learn from your work. See for more information.

Be a Mentor:

If you can, join a mentoring program such as the one the OWA co-sponsors with the San Francisco chapter of the AIA. But don’t wait for a formal venue. Mentor young women, or women returning to the workforce, whenever you see an opportunity. Encourage women early in their careers to think strategically about their careers, to actively seek opportunities and advocate for themselves. Help them to recognize their strengths, so they don’t get discouraged. Help them to understand their weaknesses constructively, and find ways to build their skillset.

Get Informed About Compensation:

It is well known that women’s pay is still not equal to men’s for the same work and same qualifications. It doesn’t help that there is a taboo in our culture against discussing pay. Women also tend to be more reluctant to negotiate our salary. You are in a much better position to be fairly compensated if you know the market rate for your labor. The OWA+DP has ordered a copy of the latest AIA compensation survey, and will be making it available to members at our events.

Network and Share Ideas as Broadly as Possible:

You never know when you will have a bit of wisdom that will help someone else, or when someone else will offer you a key insight. Be active in the OWA+DP. In this connected world, there are also many organizations near and far that you can connect to digitally. A prime example is Parlour, at

Get into Positions of Leadership and Be Visible:

This serves two purposes. First of all, we all need role models. The more opportunity we have to see people we can relate to leading and doing important work, the better we can imagine pursuing a similar path and achieving similar things. Secondly, being a leader puts you in a position to make decisions, to set an example of recognizing quality work equally, regardless of the gender of the worker. So if you have any inclination, seek out opportunities to teach, lead a firm, serve on awards juries, write about contemporary architecture, or do anything else that shapes the conversation about design.

Did we leave anything out? What else can we do to strengthen ourselves individually and collectively as women in architecture and design? Send your comments and ideas for inclusion in future issues of the newsletter.

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