AIA New York Women in Design Discuss Mentorship in Design

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Image Credit: Melissa Chua, Lean by Design
On occasion of International Women’s Day, architects at various stages in their careers convened in New York to discuss the dynamics and possibilities of mentorship, collaboration and advancement in architecture.
Panelists included Louise Braverman, FAIA, Founding Principal of Louise Braverman ArchitectJulia Gamolina, founder and Editor of Madame Architect, Samantha Josaphat, Founder of Studio 397 and President of The New York Chapter of The National Organization of Minority ArchitectsVivian Lee, AIA Principal at Richard Meier & PartnersSara Lopergolo, AIA and Partner at Selldorf Architects, Mindy No, AIA, Associate Principal at Perkins Eastman, and Kerry Nolan, AIA, who is Senior Associate at Beyer Blinder Belle. Nolan and Lee chair the AIANY Women in Architecture CommitteeCaroline James, co-founder, VOW Architects, moderated the discussion.
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Image Credit: Melissa Chua, Lean by Design

The panel purposely had both mentors and mentees, so that panelists are able to share from various stages in their careers. Some key takeaways include from the talk include:

  • It’s a chemistry thing. The more in-sync the mentor and mentee are, the more sustaining the relationship.
  • Mentorship vs Sponsorship: Mentorship can’t be too formalized, as there is a lot of spillover of profession into personal and ancillary topics. A sponsor however is more often within one’s firm, or is a close association.
  • It’s often better to not to have one’s mentor in-house because sometimes you aren’t happy and need to talk it over. Having a more neutral party is helpful.
  • Big firms have the resources to do more structured efforts such as creating  women in architecture groups. Firms such as fxfowle have this group. The Diversity and Inclusion group at Perkins Eastman also provides a platform for mentorship.
  • NCARB is trying to formalize mentorship programs, for various reasons, including how difficult that path to licensure is.
  • The AIA National Organization has not formalized mentorship per se. However, interestingly, an amendment to the AIA Code of Ethics formalize responsibility of Mentorship in relation to the Intern Development Program. Developing a comprehensive toolkit at the AIA National level would be a great step towards giving actionable, down-to-earth programs that can truly shift the needle. These efforts are vital in tandem with the Equity, Diversity and Inclusion efforts that are being prioritized at present.
  • Ways to find a mentor include getting out there to WIA events, AIANY etc. It’s essential to make time for these networking events – some suggest putting these events in one’s calendar and keeping disciplined, just as one would go to the gym or take one’s medicine.
  • All participants note how the mentorship is a symbiotic relationship with both sides learning from one another.

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Good news is that there is ample room to ramp up mentorship. This is the critical next step and top-priority for VOW-Voices of Women Architects.
Thursday, 3/7, 6:30pm – 8pm
Perkins Eastman, 115 Fifth Avenue
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Thanks to organizers AIANY Women in Architecture Committee and Perkins Eastman, and thank you to AIANY-Ben Prosky for helping make this happen.
Interested to bring hear more about mentorship efforts to your organization? Reach out to Caroline James (contact below) for more info!
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