by Alison Kennedy, ASLA
The 2018 ASLA Annual Meeting and EXPO was a landmark meeting for the Women in Landscape Architecture Professional Practice Network (WILA PPN). Not only did our PPN host two well-attended events as part of the conference, we were also pleased to see women in our profession more equally represented amongst education session panels. 20 WILA PPN members spoke, moderated sessions, and led field sessions on a wide variety of topics over the course of the meeting.
The PPN’s Women in Leadership Roundtable took place on the PPN Live stage in the EXPO hall on Saturday morning. With more than 90 attendees in the standing-room-only audience, we can safely say that this is one of the best, if not the best, turnouts we have ever had at our PPN Live meeting. Roundtable participants Wendy Miller, FASLA, Vanessa Warren, ASLA, Haley Blakeman, ASLA, and Magdalena Aravena, ASLA, shared their paths to leadership positions and lessons learned along the way.
The panelists agreed on several key items regarding volunteer leadership and the role a mentor or robust support system plays in successful volunteerism:
- Start small and build up confidence/experience. Volunteer leadership skills can help you professionally gain confidence with daily work tasks, even those as simple as calling clients or consultants and eventually learning to trust your opinion and your voice.
- Many panelists cited a specific person who saw something unique or a special skill they perhaps didn’t appreciate about themselves, and who then approached them suggesting a leadership position with, “I think you would be good at this and here’s why…”
- On the other side of the above point, as a mentor, be strategic in empowering and networking with others, as there is strength in creating professional connections and growing strengths in others.
- The word “mentor” can feel too static—after all, you seldom call up someone you respect and ask that person to be your mentor! Think of mentors as your personal stakeholders, people who are invested in you and have a proven record of helping others find success.
- While the panelists agreed that it is important to take the leap and say “yes” to an opportunity, even if you feel unqualified or unable, they also agreed it is always important to be intentional with saying “yes.” One key take away: when you do say yes, do the job well.
Women in Landscape Architecture Walk
The Monday morning WILA Walk began bright and early at 7 am, and we were pleasantly surprised to have an amazing turnout of 85 attendees! The Pennsylvania/Delaware Host Chapter organized and led a wonderful walk down Philadelphia’s iconic Benjamin Franklin Parkway.
The group learned about projects including Lenfest Plaza and moved to Logan Square, including Sister Cities Park, Pennypacker Park, Shakespeare Park, Aviator Park, and Logan Circle. The return leg of the loop included stops at Holocaust Memorial Plaza, Love Park, and Dilworth Park. A huge thank you to Karen Skafte, ASLA, and Julie Bush, ASLA, for organizing, and to Ground Reconsidered for designing wonderful maps for the walk.
This has been a huge year for women in landscape architecture. As an ASLA Professional Practice Network dedicated to issues pertaining to women in our profession, the rising tide of women’s empowerment across America and around the world has been an important influence on us as well. We hope to continue to diversify the voices representing women in our profession over the next year and hope that you will help us in that effort. Please reach out to our volunteer leadership team if you have an idea for a written piece for The Field blog, an idea for a webinar, or if you would like to be part of our PPN leadership team.
Alison Kennedy, ASLA, is co-chair of the ASLA Women in Landscape Architecture Professional Practice Network (WILA PPN) and member of the ASLA Archives & Collections Committee.