Women’s History Month is a great time to reflect on a survey conducted last year as part of the WxLA proposal for “Female Forward: Three Generations of Womxn Leaders Talk Life, Work, and Legacy,” by Andrea Cochran, FASLA, Cinda Gilliland, ASLA, Emily Greenwood, Rebecca Leonard, and myself for the 2020 ASLA Conference on Landscape Architecture. The data presented in this post comes from that survey, distributed last year with support from WxLA and ASLA. The survey’s aim was to collect information on emerging professionals’—those just entering the field—experiences, challenges, and opportunities in landscape architecture.
Survey Characteristics and Participant Demographics
The survey was open for 45 days, beginning on July 1, 2020. We asked respondents 21 questions in three categories:
Demographic Information (9 questions),
Workplace Culture (6 questions), and
Career Advancement & Self Development (6 questions).
The survey was completed by 71% of the 159 participants.
The American Society of Landscape Architects’ Women in Landscape Architecture Professional Practice Network (WILA PPN) Leadership Team, led by PPN Co-Chair TJ Marston, has curated a list of resources to help businesses and individuals tackle four important workplace issues that affect gender equity in landscape architecture: flexibility, caregiving, pay inequity, and discrimination:
Startup Pregnant is a five star-rated podcast about reinventing work and parenthood, looking at deep human questions around what it means to become a parent, grow a business, deal with success, and learn from failure.
Why we love it: You don’t have to run a start-up or be pregnant to find this podcast helpful. Regular listeners will find the stories from entrepreneurial women and leaders cut to the core of issues facing parents and women in today’s workforce.
Fun fact: The founder, Sarah Peck, is a former landscape designer who received her MLA from the University of Pennsylvania. While she keeps the focus on her new business ventures, she knows our industry and the demands it takes. Plus, she has a great radio voice that you’ll find easy to listen to on your commute or in your free time!
What can you DO to support women in the workplace?
The American Society of Landscape Architects’ Women in Landscape Architecture Professional Practice Network (WILA PPN) Leadership Team, led by PPN Co-Chair TJ Marston, has curated a list of tools and tips to help businesses and individuals tackle four important workplace issues that affect gender equity in landscape architecture: flexibility, caregiving, pay inequity, and discrimination.
EDGE Certification is the leading global assessment methodology and business certification standard for gender equality. The methodology was designed for medium to large organizations with a minimum of 200 employees, but they do accept inquiries from smaller companies.
The JUST program is a voluntary disclosure tool which helps organizations optimize policies that improve social equity and enhance employee engagement. Organizations can use the label on their website or marketing to demonstrate their commitments to these issues. While larger firms like Mithun and Sasaki have used this program with great success, the JUST program also has a sliding scale for pricing based on the size of your business. Anyone can do it, no matter the size!
This information will then be compiled as a downloadable PDF, available on the WILA PPN’s Resources page.
Why is the WILA PPN leadership team providing this guide?
While women are entering our field at unprecedented rates, articles like “The Big Time. The Bigger Time.” in Landscape Architecture Magazine last April showed us that we still have work to do to support the advancement of women in our profession.
“As a shared and open resource, Wikipedia provides a public platform for us to acknowledge and celebrate the groundbreaking work that women have contributed to the field.”
– Alexandra Mei, WiLA Wiki Officer
The takeover will last one week, December 8 – December 14, so make sure you follow @w_x_la to catch it all!
Alexandra Mei, Associate ASLA, is a landscape designer at Merritt Chase and a lecturer at Washington University in St. Louis. She recently completed a two-year research fellowship from the Harvard University Graduate School of Design, focused on the patterns of weathering and decay in the design of public landscapes. Alexandra graduated from WashU with a bachelor’s degree in architecture and from Harvard GSD with her masters in landscape architecture. She grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area and now lives in St. Louis.
Shira Grosman, Student ASLA, is a Masters Candidate in Landscape Architecture at Harvard GSD. She has worked in landscape architecture and architecture firms in New York and Los Angeles and conducted multiple research projects on women in design. She is currently co-editor of Womxn in Design‘s Bibliography on Identity Theories. Shira graduated from WashU with a bachelor’s degree in architecture and currently lives in Cambridge, MA.
Beatrix Farrand studied the art and science of landscape before any formal academic programs existed. In the late 1800s women were excluded from public projects, but that didn’t stop Beatrix from gaining prominence. She began her career designing private residential gardens, but her later work is likely better known to you. It includes the National Cathedral, White House gardens, Princeton, and Yale.
She was the first. Since then, woman have come to serve a broad range of roles in the landscape industry. But we are still outnumbered by men. That’s why BrightView—the nation’s largest landscape company—founded GROW (Growth in Relationships + Opportunities for Women), the company’s first Employee Resource Group (ERG), with the goal to attract, retain, and promote women in the company.
Caring for our people is part of BrightView’s culture. The new corporate reality since BrightView went public is that shareholders have certain expectations and cultivating diversity is among them. “Being the largest landscape company in the country carries certain obligations as a leader in the industry,” said CEO Andrew Masterman. “The GROW initiative is just one way we can achieve that.” He added, “the women of BrightView are making history, changing the way landscaping is delivered, and leading the design, development, maintenance, and enhancements of some of the country’s most recognizable environments.”
by Gina Ford, FASLA, Cinda Gilliland, ASLA, Rebecca Leonard, Jamie Maslyn Larson, ASLA, and Steven Spears, FASLA
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:
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.
Does Your Chapter Support or Work with a Local Mentorship Program?
If you don’t see your chapter’s local mentorship program listed above, please send the link to firstname.lastname@example.org so we can add it to our list. And if you, or someone from your chapter, is interested in writing a short description of the program, please let us know. We’d love to hear from members across the country, especially from areas where landscape architects may be few and far between, and finding a mentor may be more of a challenge. Share your landscape architecture mentorship story!
You’ve reached that point in your professional life where you find yourself looking for people to connect professionally and create networks with. These special individuals provide a unique dynamic to the depth of our professional lives and may be peers or mentors. They make us feel self-assured and connected, and sometimes become great friends or even business partners. They can be male or female, but there are benefits to finding connection with others of the same sex. Here are two stories from the Women in Landscape Architecture (WILA) leadership team on how they found a network of Women in Design (WID).
WID-Wisconsin – Christa Schaefer, ASLA
I finished my MLA in the Twin Cities and moved back home to Waukesha, WI for job opportunities and to stay connected with family. When I moved I found myself leaving my professional connections behind and felt disconnected from landscape architects in my new home. I wondered who and where they were.
Job opportunities helped me develop a few professional connections, but few were with other women in design fields. I reached out and became engaged with the Wisconsin Chapter of ASLA (WI-ASLA), but still found minimal female connections. Ultimately those opportunities through WI-ASLA expanded my leadership skills and I did finally make some very valuable female connections. These connections have helped support me finding my way through the very male-dominated world I currently work in.
Four Los Angeles landscape architecture projects were highlighted during the 2017 ASLA Annual Meeting’s Women in Landscape Architecture Walk, organized by Stephanie Psomas, ASLA, of Pamela Burton & Company, and the local host chapter, ASLA SoCal. Nearly 80 participants braved the early start time on the final day of the meeting and were rewarded with the rare treat of watching light break over the historic and modern cityscape of downtown Los Angeles.
1: Biddy Mason Park
The crowd of began gathering at the centrally located Biddy Mason Park. This L-shaped pocket park is distinctly urban and makes up the interior space of nearly an entire city block. Despite being immediately adjacent to the popular local and tourist stop of Grand Central Market, the park entrance is subtly marked and the space is quiet.
Meet the ASLA Women in Landscape Architecture PPN Leadership Team!
The Women in Landscape Architecture Professional Practice Network (WILA PPN) leadership team meets monthly, focusing on the experience and contributions of women in the profession, creating resources for women in the profession, providing mentorship opportunities, encouraging discussion of work/life balance concerns within our profession, and establishing a virtual home for members. We consider ways for our membership to become more active advocates for landscape architecture and women practitioners, including writing post for The Field, coordinating the Women in Landscape Architecture Walk at the ASLA Annual Meeting, and currently conducting a survey to get a more in-depth understanding of the demographics of caretaking and leave issues for landscape architects.
In addition to a chair or co-chairs, many PPNs also have larger leadership teams that include past chairs and PPN officers focusing on various PPN activities. In this post, we’d like to introduce our co-chairs and officers through their answers to the following questions:
Why are you active in ASLA?
Why are you a part of the Women in Landscape Architecture PPN?
Call for Landscape Architecture Firm Award Nominations
The call for nominations is open for the 2017 ASLA Honors. These prestigious awards recognize individuals and organizations for their lifetime achievements and notable contributions to the profession of landscape architecture.
One of the ASLA Honors is the Landscape Architecture Firm Award, the highest honor that the American Society of Landscape Architects may bestow on a landscape architecture firm. ASLA would like to increase the number of nominations received for firms with female founders and principals.
Nominations may be made by an ASLA professional member or an ASLA chapter. Many nominations are submitted by the firm’s principal. Please consider having your firm nominated. The deadline for all nominations is Friday, January 20, 2017.
The Women in Landscape Architecture Professional Practice Network (WILA PPN) leadership team thought that this article holds relevance to our field in landscape architecture. Is there gender equity in landscape architecture? I believe that it is much the same as in architecture, though their numbers appear to be more drastic than ours. Take a look at the article, Why Are Women Leaving Architecture?, from the June 2016 issue of Building Dialogue, and know the following stats for landscape architecture:
We continue to try and understand what happens to women in the workplace and the different career paths (or mommy paths) that are taken. What is the percentage of women who own companies or are principals in firms? Our (WILA) gut feeling is that numbers such as these would be low. How many women leave the workforce and never re-enter? And if they re-enter, what is their career path? How do we even track that? We should gather trends from the extensive work of AIA in their Equity by Design initiative and Diversity in the Profession of Architecture Report, and learn from our sister organization.
The WILA PPN has developed a survey that we would like you to take, both men and women—we would like your help in collecting information on the demographics of the field of landscape architecture. Please take 10 minutes to participate in our survey:
We aim to collect several hundred responses from both MEN and WOMEN all over the country to be statistically representative of the field. We anticipate this survey to be the start a more in depth study of the field akin to the recent study in the field of architecture called The Missing 32%. Folks often assume that landscape architecture fares similarly to architecture or other allied fields in terms of demographics; a study like this will help discover if that is in fact the case.
Women in Landscape Architecture (WILA) events for this year’s meeting include a discussion during our WILA Professional Practice Network (PPN) Meeting about Working Families and Navigating Work Relationships on Behalf of Your Family. Join us on Sunday, October 23 at 9:15 AM in the Garden District Meeting Room on the EXPO floor. Find us again at the EXPO Reception featuring the PPNs at 4:30 PM Sunday afternoon.
Once again, we are delighted to join the host chapter, ASLA Louisiana, for the Women in Landscape Architecture Walk on Monday morning, 7:00 – 8:30 AM. This is a FREE walking tour led by local landscape architects from the host chapter. Join ASLA Louisiana for a walk along the Mississippi River to visit existing and proposed riverfront projects designed to bring the City of New Orleans back to the River. Walk co-leaders Dana Brown and Gaylan Williams will lead us from the Convention Center to the Riverwalk, through Spanish Plaza and the future Four Seasons Hotel, through the Audubon Aquarium’s riverfront plaza, to Woldenberg Park and on to the cruise ship dock and the Mookwalk in front of the French Quarter. A new Riverfront Master Plan is underway to make walking more seamless, integrated and compelling. Spanish Plaza, a gift to the City in 1976 from Spain, is being re-imagined to commemorate the 300th birthday of the City of New Orleans in 2018.
Cities across the world share one similar struggle: keeping citizens safe. Each city has unique and complex challenges; however, above all, the health, safety, and welfare of a city’s citizens is a top priority. The Smart City movement has gained momentum over the past decade as cities have begun to develop place-based strategies using information and communication technologies and the Internet to solve their specific problems. The beauty of these technologies is that they are accessible and dynamic. Smart cities can develop not only through government agencies, but also grassroots campaigns and private enterprises. It takes a village, as they say, to build a smart city.
Smart cities are able to adapt to their changing needs by incorporating real-time data and citizen feedback. The smart city becomes a sort of artificial intelligence—responding to its environment and making decisions based on input. This new type of city has the ability to help keep us safe by managing resources, preventing crime, enhancing public services, and simply helping us find our way. As a designer, this is a fascinating realm for me. As a woman, even more so. What would make me feel safer in my city? How can we use these technologies to design better public spaces that feel safer (and are safer) for women?
The Women in Landscape Architecture Professional Practice Network (WILA PPN)’s focus for 2015-2016 is an interview series developed around being women landscape architects, life/work balance, and mentors. The WILA PPN’s co-chairs and officers developed a set of 17 questions, then sought out willing landscape architects and began the interview process. The following is an in-depth look at responses to the last group of interview questions, asking what general advice they have for new landscape architects and what specific suggestions they would have for their 25-year-old self.
The result: be focused, be fearless, be engaged, be connected. It will work out; build the relationships and put as much into those professional relationships as into the practice of the profession. We are not alone in our workplaces. Use those around you to help define and determine where you want to be and work to get there. Good advice for anyone.
Many of our respondents suggested that new landscape architects be active and decisive in pursuing interests related to work focus and content and to seek out mentors and be engaged in learning from them about specific needs and aspirations. While some suggested focusing on the aspects/areas of most interest in landscape architecture, others encourage a well-rounded, more broad-based approach to the field. Be sure to do your research before reaching out to respect the time of the mentors and get involved early in ASLA and other professional societies through writing or activities to build relationships and connections in your new career.
As advice to themselves at 25, most focused on a version of ‘Relax, it’s going to work out.’ Coming in second were variations on ‘Build your relationship network with as much focus as you put on work.’
The Women in Landscape Architecture Professional Practice Network (WILA PPN)’s focus for 2015-2016 is an interview series developed around being women landscape architects, life/work balance, and mentors. The WILA PPN’s co-chairs and officers developed a set of 17 questions, then searched out willing landscape architects and began the interview process. The following is a continuation on the theme of mentorship and an in-depth look at the responses to two questions posed to our interviewees.
These questions continue the conversation about how mentors influence us professionally, specifically asking what the interviewees’ mentors provided them and how their mentor needs may or may have not changed throughout their careers. Generally, what one gets out of their mentor relationships is very personal and different for everyone, but everyone that mentioned having a mentor was definitely influenced by that individual. There was a general theme of seeing the respondents grow from being mentored to becoming a mentor over time.
“The Mind is Not a Vessel to be Filled, but a Fire to be Kindled”
The Women in Landscape Architecture Professional Practice Network (WILA PPN)’s focus for 2015-2016 is an interview series developed around being women landscape architects, life/work balance, and mentors. The WILA PPN’s co-chairs and officers developed a set of 17 questions, then searched out willing landscape architects and began the interview process. The following is the first of two posts on the topic of mentorship.
Women & Mentors
Two of our WILA PPN interview questions focused on women’s experience with, and serving as, mentors throughout their careers. One common theme was that mentoring or being mentored is not a particularly formalized process in most firms. The resulting experiences with mentoring or being mentored were very broad, from understanding appropriate office attire, to the sharing of technical knowledge, to focusing on career advancement.
This group of questions asked the interviewees to share information about their former careers and/or job experiences prior to landscape architecture. As outlined in our first post of the interview series, most of our interviewees said they chose landscape architecture as a second or even third career. So what did they do before, and how did those experiences help lead them to landscape architecture? Did those experiences help prepare them for their new career?
What kind of other job(s), if any, did you have before/during/after your career as a landscape architect?
Sometimes our paths to success and happiness become more crooked than straight. However, as we’ve all learned, there is no shortcut to any place worth going. Life can take some pretty sharp turns, but if you’re willing to follow a new path, you may end up where you always wanted to be. I had a prior career in the television industry and whenever I meet another landscape architect they’re always interested to hear how I ended up in landscape architecture. It seems like most of the time, the other person’s path was just as crooked as mine was.
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 fourth group of interview questions, focusing on how respondents felt their responsibilities outside of work governed their choices and how their work places reacted or set the stage for support.
Nearly everyone has responsibilities outside of work that stress our life/work balance. How have you dealt with the specific life/work tensions in your career?
Though none of the questions specifically asked for respondents’ responsibilities outside of work, i.e. children, spousal needs, extended family, etc., between one-third and half of respondents mention children in their answers. Most also referred to spouses, and one to the care of parents. There was clearly a variety of familial backgrounds, but some common threads.
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 third group of interview questions, asking how respondents felt their gender influenced challenges in their work and/or informed their design work.
Many of our respondents indicated that they had experienced issues with being heard on the job (both at the construction site and in the conference room). Most respond to this challenge by making sure they had their own voice and standing up for their ideas. Several also indicated that they did not feel that gender played a role in their design work, attributing any influences in design (either approach or aesthetic) to personality instead. On the other hand, quite a few mentioned that a focus on collaboration and consensus building in their work was directly related to gender.
Each person’s experience is highly personal, but in sharing, discussing, and being open about our influences and experiences as a profession we become familiar with different ways of approaching similar situations in the future and ultimately push forward the best design for each project.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.