WILA Interview Series: Facing Challenges

image: iStock © Thomas_EyeDesign

image: iStock © Thomas_EyeDesign

The Women in Landscape Architecture Professional Practice Network (WILA PPN)’s focus for 2015 is an interview series developed around being women landscape architects, life/work balance, and mentors. The WILA PPN leadership team developed 17 interview questions, and then found willing landscape architects to participate in the interview process.

The following is an in-depth look at responses to our second group of questions, focused on the topic of challenges and how to overcome them. Several recurring themes appeared throughout the answers to the questions: What challenges have you faced during your career which you attribute as specifically related to being a woman? How have you dealt with those challenges?

The majority of the women who participated in our interviews have experienced interpersonal challenges dealing with men in the office and in the field (with contractors). These difficulties were not only a matter of having to prove credibility and earn respect, but having to do so in a culturally acceptable way.

Quotes from our interviewees:

  • “The biggest career challenges I’ve faced related to being a woman stem from opinions formed by specific cultural or generational contexts. Some people have different ideas about what women can or can’t do or what’s appropriate behavior or language.”
  • “I wasn’t graceful in how I dealt with many of those scenarios, but I dealt with them…by being vocal…speaking to those I thought could make a change and by trying to call it when I could.”
  • “I have had people assume that my male partners were my ‘bosses.’ I have also had some (male) contractors not taking me seriously, talking down to me, or disregarding me.”

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WILA Interview Series: The Choice

image: iStock © aydinynr

image: iStock © aydinynr

The Women in Landscape Architecture Professional Practice Network (WILA PPN)’s focus for 2015 is an interview series developed around being women landscape architects, life/work balance, and mentors. The WILA PPN leadership team developed 17 interview questions, and then found willing landscape architects to participate in the interview process. The following is an in-depth look at responses to the first three interview questions.

This group of questions demonstrated how diverse and personal discovering the career of landscape architecture is for everyone, even in a focus group of women. One common theme is how the majority found landscape architecture as a second, and sometimes third, career choice or discovered it in college as a second degree path. Very few knew from the beginning that landscape architecture was the career for them.

Question 1: How did you choose landscape architecture as a career?

When asked this question, most of us have a story to tell of how we found landscape architecture or how it found us. Whenever I meet another landscape architect, I love to hear their story. Of the 20 women interviewed, these are some of the reoccurring comments when asked this question:

  • Many discovered their career choice via contact with another landscape architect or similar design professional.
  • The career choice was discovered through a school guidance counselor or college degree advisor.
  • A few were lucky enough to learn about landscape architecture early on and knew it was the career choice for them.

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Introducing the WILA Interview Series

image: iStock

image: iStock

The Women in Landscape Architecture (WILA) Professional Practice Network‘s focus this year revolves around an interview series developed around being women landscape architects, life/work balance, and the importance of mentors. The WILA PPN’s co-chairs and officers developed the following 17 questions for this interview series, and then sought out willing landscape architects and began the interview process.

The following is a summary of the interview questions and trends or themes from the responses. Over the next few months, WILA will roll out eight in-depth analyses of groups of questions that focus on a particular concept or theme. Our hope is that by sharing these stories, new perspectives will develop on how diverse and unique women landscape architects, life/work balances, and mentors can be and how they influence all of us.

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WILA Highlights from Denver

The 2014 WILA Walk, led by Connie Perry and Susan Morris-McCabe, included a stop outside the Denver Art Museum image: Tanya Olson

The 2014 WILA Walk, led by Connie Perry and Susan Morris-McCabe, included a stop outside the Denver Art Museum
image: Tanya Olson

We hope you all enjoyed the ASLA Annual Meeting in Denver last November. The main WILA events included the WILA Professional Practice Network (PPN) meeting, where we had speed-mentoring, and the WILA Walk.

The WILA PPN meeting took place on Saturday, November 22 in the Colorado Convention Center Expo Hall. We had an amazing turnout, stretching the capacity of the PPN meeting room with over 30 attendees ranging from students in landscape architecture to practitioners entering retirement. Although “ice breaker” questions were provided, the group had no problem jumping right into sharing their experiences in landscape architecture. Discussions covered all aspects of landscape architecture practice, from entering practice for the first time to starting a landscape architecture firm, on to ownership transition and retirement.

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WILA at the Annual Meeting in Denver

2014 WILA Walk route through Denver's Golden Triangle image: Connie Perry and Susan McCabe, the Denver WILA Walk organizers

2014 WILA Walk route through Denver’s Golden Triangle
image: Connie Perry and Susan McCabe, the Denver WILA Walk organizers

The ASLA Annual Meeting in Denver is just around the corner!  We can’t wait to see you!

This past year, WILA has focused on rolling out a women in landscape architecture interview series. The series will revolve around a series of questions developed by the WILA PPN’s leadership group, and the interview results will be posted here on The Field as an overview and in more detail in the upcoming year.

WILA events for this year’s Annual Meeting include speed-mentoring at the WILA PPN Meeting on Saturday, November 22 at 4:15 pm, the PPN Networking Reception on Friday, November 21, and of course the WILA Walk on Monday morning at 7 am. More information on all of these and several education sessions which might be of interest is listed below.

Hope to see you at one or all of these events!

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Women in Landscape Architecture: Preview of Annual Meeting Events

The WILA Walk at last year's Annual Meeting in Phoenix, Arizona. image: Emily M. O'Mahoney, ASLA, PLA, LEED AP, BD&C

The Women in Landscape Architecture Walk at last year’s Annual Meeting in Phoenix, Arizona.
image: Emily M. O’Mahoney, ASLA, PLA, LEED AP, BD&C

It’s that time of year again: the ASLA 2013 Annual Meeting & EXPO will be in Boston, MA next month! Check out ASLA’s The Landscape Architect’s Guide to Boston for some of the sites you might want to see while you’re in town. We hope it will encourage you to attend; there is a lot to see in Boston!

This year’s Women in Landscape Architecture PPN meeting will be held immediately following the Women in Landscape Architecture Walk around Boston Harbor on Monday, November 18. Those of you who cannot join us for the walk can meet us at 9:00am at Barrington Coffee Roasting Company, 346 Congress Street, Boston, MA 02210. Our meeting will be a quick catch up face to face after the morning walk. If you have a particular subject you’d like to discuss, let us know and we’ll work it into our meeting.

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Responses to the 2013 HALS Challenge

Mayflower Cottage with Lake George views image: Lisa Tonneson-McCorkell

Mayflower Cottage with Lake George views
image: Lisa Tonneson-McCorkell

We’re very excited to announce that our members successfully completed the HALS Challenge this year, “Documenting the Cultural Landscapes of Women.” So far, we’ve received information from only a few of those who submitted projects. Please send us your entries if you also completed the challenge so we can share your hard work with your fellow PPN members.

One of the submissions was from Lisa Tonneson-McCorkell, of the Saratoga Springs, New York-based LA Group. Her entry documents the Wiawaka Holiday House on Lake George. Established as an affordable retreat for working women during a time of increased women’s rights and factory conditions activism, Wiawaka is still in operation today, making it the oldest continuously operating facility of its kind in the United States.

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