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Being Both an Architect and Mom

Updated: Apr 15, 2021

In today's episode of Design Create Inspire I'm talking all about being both a mom and an architect, how we don't have to choose just one role and how my own limiting beliefs on gender roles have affected me.

AIA San Francisco's Equity by Design committee (formerly the Missing 32% Project) 2011

The Missing 32% Project was a great study done in 2011 that analyzed equality in architecture. The survey found that a majority of women in architecture do take a leave of absence—most frequently around the childbearing and child-rearing years—but that men do not. “There’s a big stigma for leaving architecture,” Sheng says. “Once you leave, it’s like falling out of the pearly gates of heaven: You can never get back in.”

According to Architect Magazine, Initially you find women in leadership positions but then as the years go by, men move into leadership positions. “Women have that sharp early trajectory knowing that there are going to be other life events coming up, so they try to advance as quickly as they can in their early career,” Sheng says. “And then it flips, theoretically for childbirth and caregiving.”

Atelier Cho Thompson via The Missing 32% Project

Atelier Cho Thompson via The Missing 32% Project

There is another good report conducted by the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture (ACSA) titled “Where Are the Women? Measuring Progress on Gender in Architecture.” The organization found that only one in four guest lecturers in architecture schools is female. This among the lack of women in other leadership roles provides for a lack of female role models for young women to look up to. This report was done in 2014 and I do believe the tides are changing - slowly but surely.

Images via ACSA Arch

In 2016, women accounted for 36 percent of newly licensed architects, which is higher than ever before. It's still not 50 percent, but at least it's slowly increasing year by year. According to NCARB, women also complete their initial license on average 10 months quicker than men. So really the issue is the 10-15 years into the profession where we see a drop in women. Do we really still have to make the choice whether to be a mom or be an architect?

I decided I was going to have both. I was going to be a great mom and a great architect. I came across this quote from Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar years ago and it stuck with me.

I didn't want to watch the figs wrinkle and dry up before my eyes. I didn't want to just have a single choice and I don't believe we have to. I have always been an entrepreneur, so I grew up knowing I would run my own business someday. I also always wanted a family. Now I know, that being a small business owner and a Mom actually has benefits and working for myself is even more valuable. Im given the freedom to spend time with my daughter and choose which hours to work. It isn’t always easy to motivate myself to start work at 8:30pm, but somehow the work gets done. Luckily I love what I do, so it makes it easier. I love being an architect and I love being a mom.

I believe I’m setting a good example for my daughter, showing her that having a family doesn’t mean you have to put your dreams aside. You can work hard and achieve your goals, you just have to be systematic and organized. I want to encourage her to grow up strong, independent, with a “sky’s the limit” take on the world.

My advice for any other entrepreneur mothers (or some like to call themselves mompreneurs) is that you can do it. Simply that. It may seem hard, some days you will want to quit, but you can do it. Just make sure you love what you do!

Listen to this week's podcast for even more info as I dive deeper into the topic (I also reveal some pretty big news I've been hiding!).



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