A few years ago, Move Over Bob brought you this story of New York City architect Anik Pearson who, with her firm colleague, architect Angelique Pierre, and marketing professional Nancy Kleppel of Nancy Kleppel Consulting, launched a mentorship program for women just starting their architecture careers. The program, now called Mentorship for Women in Architecture (MWA), has launched its third season of seminars, so we wanted to share some inspirational updates.
What began as a small, localized meet-up group has grown by leaps and bounds, and now reaches an international audience. When Covid-19 struck, Pearson, Pierre and Kleppel pivoted MWA to an online format, which meant they could welcome attendees from around the world. At present, MWA has mentors and mentees in 45 states, as well as Washington D.C. and Puerto Rico, and in nine countries (Canada, Sudan, Italy, Spain, UK, Chile, Nepal, Venezuela, Denmark).
Each seminar features two experienced female architects presenting on various aspects of working in the field, followed by a Q&A with attendees. The seminars are designed to spark relationships between mentors and attendees, and often lead to one-on-one guidance. Studies have shown that while the same number of male and female students graduate from architecture school, many women leave the field soon after they begin simply because they feel discouraged. Sound familiar? Like women in the trades, women architects feel the pressure of long hours that make family life complicated. Combine that with age and gender biases, low pay, few opportunities, and a lack of role models, it’s easy to understand why they walk away. But MWA wants to change that by offering a supportive community in which to learn.
No subject is off-limits when it comes to the Q&As after a seminar, and conversation has run the gamut from building a career path and staying true to your vision, to learning practical skills like invoicing and insurance. “I’m incredibly proud that we’ve built a community where women feel supported enough to share their insecurities, their doubts, and their frustrations as openly as they do their successes. We often look at successful people and assume they’re always confident, or that their success is the result of a flawlessly executed plan. Our program resonates because it highlights the stories of the women, not just their work. Our mentors share what makes them tick, why they practice, how their practice is shaped by things unique to them, and how the things they didn’t plan for shaped their careers,” says Pierre.
"Advocate for yourself and others: you have to speak up to inequities, injustices and unethical labor practices. You cannot let them pass." -Architect - Peggy Deamer
And, it turns out, a lot of the insights that mentors are sharing goes well beyond just the realm of architecture. Their words should resonate with all of us.
"Love design, embrace design, and most importantly, have fun." Architect-Vivien Lee