Why Are Women Leaving (Landscape) Architecture?

The 2016 WILA Walk in New Orleans during the ASLA Annual Meeting and EXPO last month image: Event Photography of North America Corporation (EPNAC)

The 2016 WILA Walk in New Orleans during the ASLA Annual Meeting and EXPO last month
image: Event Photography of North America Corporation (EPNAC)

A response to the article ‘Why Are Women Leaving Architecture?‘ by Beth R. Mosenthal, AIA, LEED AP BD+C
Courtesy Building Dialogue, June 2016

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:

WILA PPN 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.

We hope to have preliminary data by World Landscape Architecture Month 2017. Once complete, an infographic summarizing the information will be developed and shared.

by Emily O’Mahoney, ASLA, WILA PPN Officer and Past Chair, and the WILA PPN Leadership Team

WILA at the Annual Meeting

The 2015 WILA Walk in Chicago image: Event Photography of North America Corporation (EPNAC)

The 2015 WILA Walk in Chicago
image: Event Photography of North America Corporation (EPNAC)

The ASLA Annual Meeting and EXPO in New Orleans is just around the corner, and we can’t wait to see you there!

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.

Many education sessions this year explore topics relevant in particular to women in landscape architecture. WILA PPN Co-Chair Tanya Olson will be introducing one of these sessions: SAT-A10: Women in Landscape Architecture: Pathways to Success, on Saturday morning. More information on these events and education sessions which might be of interest to WILA members are listed below.

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Smart City, Safe City

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?

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WILA Interview Series: Advice

image: iStock © PeopleImages

image: iStock © PeopleImages

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.’

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WILA Interview Series: Mentorship, Part 2

image: iStock © Steve Debenport

image: iStock © Steve Debenport

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.

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WILA Interview Series: Mentorship, Part 1

image: iStock © frankwolffnl

image: iStock © frankwolffnl

“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.

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WILA Interview Series: Career Changes

image: iStock © Sadeugra

image: iStock © Sadeugra

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.

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.

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