Being the Change

by Gina Ford, FASLA, Cinda Gilliland, ASLA, Rebecca Leonard, Jamie Maslyn Larson, ASLA, and Steven Spears, FASLA

Gina Ford, FASLA, presenting during the 2018 ASLA annual meeting
Gina Ford, FASLA, presenting during the 2018 ASLA Annual Meeting / image: EPNAC

Regardless of your political perspective, we can all agree that 2016 was an interesting year for our nation. Since, we have seen women, in particular, participating in civic action and protest in record numbers. Accordingly, last fall, the midterm election of 2018 resulted in a wave of “firsts”—with a history-making number of women, people of color, LBGTQ leaders, and women of color breaking onto the national scene in politics not just as candidates, but being voted in as representatives of their constituents.

A similar shift is happening in the practice of landscape architecture. In the years of 2016 and 2017, we—Gina Ford, Cinda Gilliland, Rebecca Leonard, and Jamie Maslyn Larson—all highly recognized, talented female landscape architects and planners—broke away from our signature roles in traditional national award-winning firms—Sasaki, SWA, Design Workshop, and West 8, respectively—to lead or start new practices, some after decades of practice in those offices. In October of 2018, concurrent with our panel discussion on the challenges and opportunities of female leadership at the national ASLA conference, moderated by Steven Spears, we published the Women’s Landscape Equality (re)Solution online at www.change.org, outlining actions for leveling the playing field for women in our profession.

The Resolution provides some context about the state of the profession as it relates to gender equality, a charge for change and a specific set of commitments to be made by signatories. We are asking supporters of it and its recommended commitments for the following:

  • Sign the (re)Solution.
  • Share your commitment to the (re)Solution by posting it on your firm’s website and on social media with the hashtag #landscapeequalitysolution and other relevant hashtags;
  • Review your firm’s policies and salaries for opportunities to make positive change right away; and
  • Engage in conversations with your colleagues on how to more actively enlist women and minorities into your firm’s work, culture and leadership.

Our hope with the Resolution is to provide some concrete actions for firm leaders to practice and adopt. By naming some of the ways we can mentor, inspire, support, and elevate women to their highest potential, we believe we can contribute something meaningful to a conversation we know is happening across the country. It is our belief that the profession of landscape architecture, the culture of its practice, and the design outcomes of the work will be made better by more female leadership, and, that our profession has the potential to become a model for others to emulate, providing a desirable career path where women can make meaningful work, can fearlessly be their whole selves, can be drivers of practice culture, and thrive.

Gina Ford, FASLA, is Principal and Co-Founder of Agency Landscape + Planning. Cinda Gilliland, ASLA, LEED AP, is President/Principal of Reed Gilliland. Rebecca Leonard, FAICP, PLA, LEED AP, CNU-A , is CEO and founder of Lionheart Places LLC. Jamie Maslyn Larson, ASLA, is Principal at Wagner Hodgson Landscape Architecture. Steven Spears, FASLA, AICP, is Principal at GroundWork Development Company.

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