Celebrating International Women’s Day

ThomsonAdsett is proud to have such incredible and creative women leading our teams across Australia and for International Women’s Day we want to highlight some of the things that drive us to excel.

In honour of the #choosetochallenge theme, we asked our team to share what IWD means to them and what inspires them to forge for social, economic, cultural and political achievements.

 

Rachel Herzberg

Principal – Business Development

What does International Women’s Day mean to you?

International Women’s Day is a great opportunity to celebrate the wonderful women in our lives; at home, at work and those we socialise with. However, naming days like this also highlights difference and separation.  As long as it is celebratory and not divisive, then I think it works.  The fact we need an International Women’s Day is the real issue!

Who’s a woman you admire?

Can I name two?  Glennon Doyle and Annabel Crabb

Who has been/is a mentor in the industry for you?

Funnily enough, my dad, an architect now long retired but keeps his mind busy working with the UK government on planning policy.  He is a gentle and kind soul, moral, compassionate and empathetic but reached the pinnacle of a huge international practice, lectured at universities, talked all over the world and wrote many fantastic articles.  He showed me that you can be powerful and successful but kindly and gently, balking against the expected alpha-approach to success.

What inspired you to get involved in a career with the built environment?

My dad! Growing up visiting building sites, overhearing board meetings at the kitchen table, seeing his passion and watching him draw.  Walking into an architects practice in the 1980s was walking into a sea of artists at their drawings boards.  How things have changed!

What do you see as challenges and opportunities for women in the industry?

Challenges tend to be being heard – it is a male dominated industry and it can be hard to have a voice at the table. Often administrative tasks flow downstream to the women in a studio, like the mother hens keeping the place in check. Being seen for more than an appearance can be hard.  Once you have knowledge and confidence that slips away and you know when you talk with authority on a subject, you can be heard and seen. Less is often more.

Opportunities can be unfortunately related to practices ticking diversity boxes. But, being in the minority can be a strength, your difference can be your superpower. Often being the only female voice at the table or energy in the room can cut through the masculine viewpoint and bring very different perspectives to a situation. There is a real opportunity for us to create parity for both men and women. Annabel Crabb’s book The Wife Drought focuses on why men need lives (to be able to extract themselves from working all of the time) and women need wives (to have the same level of support with the mental load within and outside of work).

Have you experienced any hurdles within your career dictated by your gender?  If so, do you think these have changed over time?

We cannot escape biology.  I have had three children through my career and each time have taken a year off and panicked about my career trajectory and my prospects and doubted by abilities. However, I seem to have stayed on track by keeping abreast of the industry, reading a lot, staying in touch etc. Knowing that a woman’s value doesn’t disappear with pregnancy and her brain still functions long after a child is welcomed is a very pacifying thought. The issue is, as soon as a workplace knows a woman is pregnant it is almost like a redundancy – oftentimes looked over for opinions. I don’t think things have changed but I do see more flexibility and understanding about work life balance since the pandemic which is a positive for us all, both men and women – and creating balance in families and less gender split and more load equality within them too.

 

Lynn Van Dievoort  

National Seniors Living Design Director

Who’s a woman you admire?

There are many, but focussing on architecture I can’t get past Zaha Hadid – I’m not necessarily a fan of all the projects in her oeuvre, but her path, pushing the boundaries (both architecturally and in a male-dominated industry) and legacy are something that deserves respect.
Other women in art and architecture: Kazuyo Sejima, Eileen Gray, Francine Houben and Paola Vigano.

What inspired you to get involved in a career with the built environment?

Visiting the Sagrada Familia in Spain with my family when I was 12. I always liked drawing and being creative, and Gaudi’s building pushed this interest towards the built environment – and that is where it stayed.

What do you see as challenges and opportunities for women in the industry?
A survey on gender equality and inclusion highlighted that about 50 per cent of graduating architecture students are female, yet only 10 per cent of women hold leadership positions in architecture firms, which is just baffling. Those are numbers that you would expect to see in a survey of 20-30 years old maybe, however the survey dates back to 2018.

I think there are significant opportunities for women in this industry, as it just doesn’t make sense that 50 per cent of the users only have an impact on a minority of the build environment. Everyone on a team brings different skills and strengths to the table, and women and men just bring different things, both to projects as to team dynamics. The challenge will be for the industry to embrace this.

A quote from Francine Houben (Mecanoo): “Architecture is about teamwork, about being supportive and visionary at the same time. Women are especially good at that”.

Have you experienced any hurdles within your career dictated by your gender?  If so, do you think these have changed over time?

Yes, unfortunately/definitely. The hurdles have changed over time, but I’m not sure if they have evolved because of changes in the environment around me, rather than me just getting older and gaining more experience. In my opinion being female and young in this industry was more challenging than being female and… well, not that young anymore.

 

Cameron Frazer

CEO

What does International Women’s Day mean to you?

IWD is a structured opportunity to acknowledge that as men, we do a pretty crap job of gender equality, and we need to do far more, including getting out of the way. It’s also an opportunity to stand up, as a man, acknowledge the issues, and commit to doing something (multiple things) constructive in our workplace to address equality issues.

Who’s a woman you admire?

Ocean Ramsey – a woman who fights for knowledge of, understanding and protection for sharks (an apex predator which in many parts of the world are endangered). She is a deeply knowledgeable and experienced diver who swims with and studies sharks (amazing footage of her swimming with the largest recorded Great White in the world) – an activity which, given the fear sharks present, would usually be attributed to so-called ‘big strong, brave men’ (look at me swimming with a shark, mate (flex muscles for effect) and instead she shows them to be intelligent and remarkable creatures through her respectful interactions and deep knowledge.

Who has been/is a mentor in the industry for you?

I find mentoring occurs in small grabs for me through connections with other senior leaders. I take an enquiring mindset to conversations and ask questions to understand an issue or learn more about it.

What inspired you to get involved in a career with the built environment?

Lots of Lego and other physical making as a child and a father who might have been a frustrated architect!

What do you see as challenges and opportunities for women in the industry?

The challenges appear to be very much around attitudes from people (mainly men) and society, insofar as society culture (which includes women) creates long-term attitude challenges which are difficult to overcome. The opportunities I think are around the increased exposure that women are receiving for their ‘voice’ for issues around discrimination, assaults etc (#me too) and the opportunities that a younger generation of men seem to be embracing around greater involvement in parenting and a willingness to genuinely embrace gender equality, work flexibility.

Do you see any hurdles within the industry for women?  If so, have these changed over time?

Definitely. Architecture is generally run by middle-aged white men (power) who are not always open to either women moving into their (power) space or understanding the needs of women in the workforce (parenting comes to mind as the most obvious focus). Waiting for these men (in power) to move on is a 10-20 year timeframe – we need ways to leverage faster change.

As a young father 25 years ago I sought to work part-time for a period when both my children were born – this was met with varying degrees of support and surprise and both times I ended up with a full-time workload but part-time presence because my employers couldn’t grasp a different paradigm for ‘work’ that was not full time. As I see it, this attitude is essentially institutionalised.

However, COVID-19, having forced a new appreciation for flexible working, can be leveraged to support ongoing flexible work for everyone, not just women.

 

Simon Drysdale

Group Director – Seniors Living

What does International Women’s Day mean to you?

Just that, an international date to celebrate and acknowledge women and their contributions regardless of where they live.

Who’s a woman you admire?

My daughter, Finola.

Who has been/is a mentor in the industry for you?

A ratbag group of friends that share my profession.

What inspired you to get involved in a career with the built environment?

I was a nurse at that stage of my life and it was on a night shift sitting at the nurse station when I realised I could see everything from that one position and that I was sitting in some sort of diagram. Sounds simple now, but it had a profound effect on me.

What do you see as challenges and opportunities for women in the industry?

The experience of and refining a better definition of equity.

Do you see any hurdles within the industry for women?  If so, have these changed over time?

When I was younger the polarity of gender versus opportunity was far more pronounced. However, I see my daughter fiercely occupying her world and how her generation is one that enables and that fills me with hope. Everyone encounters blocks as they progress through their career and as such I am loath to use the word hurdle and then gender the proposition. Have I seen a change in the way workplace problems are solved and identified across my 20 something years in practice? Yes.