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.
Women Landscape Architects
This group of questions demonstrated how diverse and personal discovering the career of landscape architecture is for everyone. The majority of interviewees didn’t find being a woman presented them with specific challenges, but they did find that being a woman helped them overcome challenges and gave them a different perspective when it came to team dynamics and project management. However, most felt that design aesthetic is personal, rather than dependent upon being female.
1. The Choice – May
- How did you choose landscape architecture as a career?
- Where are you in your landscape architecture career?
- How is where you are now different than where you pictured yourself when you chose landscape architecture as a career?
2. Challenges – June
- What challenges have you faced during you career which you attribute as specifically related to being a woman?
- How have you dealt with those challenges?
3. Female Influences – July
- In what ways do you think being a woman has helped you in your career?
- How has being a woman informed your project management, approach, or design aesthetic?
This group of questions focuses on how one makes it all work: personal life and career. One key response emphasizes how important having an understanding and supportive partner can be. About two-thirds of the responses demonstrate that working for an employer who is flexible or being an employer that provides flexibility is beneficial. Of the interviewees who had worked in other fields or had experience with other kinds of employment, they found many skills they learned in previous jobs beneficial to their career in landscape architecture.
4. Family – August
- Nearly everyone has responsibilities outside of work that stress our life/work balance. How have you dealt with the specific life/work tension in your career?
- Does you practice have a way to support employees in endeavors, such as familial responsibilities or personal enrichment, outside of (or unrelated to) work?
5. Other Jobs – September
- What kind of other job(s), if any, did you have before/during/after your career as a landscape architect?
- Which non-landscape architecture job(s), if any, gave you skills that have most benefited your landscape architecture career?
This last group of questions focuses on mentors and how they have or have not helped women landscape architects navigate their career paths over time, as well as some advice from our interviewees for emerging professionals just getting started. About half of the interviewees have had a mentor. Of those, they found mentors to be very beneficial for navigating their career and work experiences. The mentors discussed are spoken of very highly, and many of the mentors are men. Generally, interviewees promote women to take initiative and be mentors themselves as well as provide lots of great advice.
6. Mentor Influences, Part 1 – October
- Do you have a mentor in your current work as a landscape architect?
- What do you see as the role of mentors in your current work as a landscape architect?
7. Mentor Influences, Part 2 – November
- Think about your current or past mentor(s). What essential lesson(s) or help did they share with you?
- How have your mentoring needs changed during different stages of your career?
8. Advice – December
- What advice do you have for young women entering landscape architecture?
- Is there something you current self would like to say to your 25-year-old self?
by Christa Wollenzien, ASLA, WILA PPN Co-Chair