As we focused on our social media strategy earlier this year, it was clear that Women’s History Month was going to be especially relevant to who we are at Dyer Brown. With 81% of our firm identifying as female, we recognize the novelty and distinct point of view we bring to the AEC industry—an industry which accounts for only 10.3% women as of 2020.
So, who are the women of Dyer Brown that make up that 81%?
We're principals, designers, architects, marketers, project managers, and human resources specialists. But, more broadly, we're also a network of women that extends beyond our firm to connections cultivated on job sites, through professional associations, and in everyday operations. These women are pivotal to our success. As we close out the month of March and our series, we're thrilled to share some industry voices that inspire us:
"I am reminded of Dyer Brown’s previous leader and owner, Roger Shepley. In the years while growing into leadership, I was simultaneously doing the kind of personal math that so many women are familiar with—making mental trade-offs between my profession and the family I had hoped to start. I was mentally stuck. This must have been obvious to Roger, who left an article on my chair one day that he had torn from an architectural magazine. It was about two women who left large companies to create their own firm so they could set their own rules—with family in mind. On it, he scribbled the note, ‘Rachel, FYI, It can be done! – R.’ This small gesture made an enormous impact on my life. It told me that he not only believed in me, but that he saw me as someone who could contribute to rewriting the rules for our firm. Today, 81% of all Dyer Brown employees identify as female. As Roger made space for me to balance my personal and professional goals at Dyer Brown, I too, am proud to support and make space for all women at our firm."
"As a social worker, I am part of a profession that has been dominated by women. However, as in other fields, women lag in leadership positions in many human services organizations. But, I find myself and other female colleagues more and more interested in pushing into positions of greater responsibility, particularly over the past five years. I see that women around me are more confident in their own journeys toward professional justice and are increasingly beginning to identify racial privilege, and make commitments to racial justice and the promotion of more women of color to positions of power."
"It's hard, especially for women, to ask for help—to ask to be supported. Women will often think if we keep our head down and do our work, everything will take place regarding our career. That is the wrong narrative. Your work doesn’t count if nobody knows about it. You have to actively bring attention to the value you bring."
"As a full-time working mom, we have always been told we can’t have it all—the career and the family—but I don’t believe that is true. At the right firm, with flexibility and understanding, women can do both. It’s not easy, but for me, it’s important that my daughters see their mom work."
"I’ve been at this for more than 25 years…yikes…and my advice focuses on trust. Be brave and trust who you are, what you have to offer, and surround yourself with people you trust who make you a better person every day. Our voices as women are heard when we lift one another up, encourage one another to be our authentic selves, and don’t apologize because we choose to communicate, manage teams, and resolve conflict in our own, effective ways. Although we continue to experience bias, I’m inspired every day by the driven, curious, strong, and endlessly resilient women I have the opportunity to work and laugh with every day at Fort Point PM, WWIRE, and the Furniture Trust. I‘m confident that these women and my two teenage daughters will continue to create opportunities for other women and feel confident paving their own way because let’s face it…'the women are smarter, that’s right, the women are smarter.' Jerry Garcia nailed it."
"Although it may appear intimidating, making the shift from a design to a construction-focused career is more so a journey of exercising what you already know. In addition to being a registered architect, I decided to pursue my contractor license to remain confident and informed on the job site. Since we work on all aspects of design at Dyer Brown—from conceptual to construction—I was motivated to expand this area of my career. If you feel apprehensive about an area of your career, use that to motivate you. I encourage women in the industry to challenge themselves in becoming life-long learners!"
"My parents were artists. With my father coming from a Master of Fine Arts background, the man has done everything—many mediums of artwork, pottery, house design and building, and was a College Department Head and Fine Arts Professor. So, the concepts of art and design are in my blood. However, in high school, I found I was drawn to math, physics, and engineering. After being accepted into a few engineering programs, I decided that interior design may be a better path. While I loved design (and still do), I also liked problem-solving from a larger scale for buildings as a whole and was introduced to facilities management my second year of college. I made the switch and am so happy I did. I feel like I get the best of both worlds in my role."
"Zaha Hadid: being from the same background as her, she showed me that a successful career in architecture for a woman with an Arab background is possible."
"As a start, the availability of jobsite safety gear in women’s sizes! Otherwise, I’m optimistic about the progress we’ve made, but there is such a long way to go. Women are frequently still discounted, judged, and held to a different standard than their male counterparts. We are too often evaluated on personality before experience; we’re required to be friendly while proving our competence with a constant awareness of how any interaction might be perceived. Men are more often judged simply on accomplishment. I think language plays big a role here; the way we discuss women and the words we use to describe them, particularly women in leadership roles, is important."
"I believe our industry could make an immense improvement by folks with varying roles beginning to “manage up” and encourage upper management, owners, and shareholders alike to promote women and provide an open dialogue around diversity. Something as simple as creating a mothers room within your office for those new working moms to have a place to be comfortable while being back to work shows that your organization cares. It starts from the top."
"Women don’t need louder voices to be recognized, they don’t need a catchy advertising campaign to fuel their success—they need courage. What does courage have to do with being heard, with having your ideas recognized as your own—and not that of a male counterpart, co-worker, or casual acquaintance? Courage has everything to do with it because it requires leaning in and listening, standing up and standing out, when the easy thing would be to stay silent. It requires grace and grit, and a granular understanding of human nature. It requires the diplomacy of eras gone by (and the rare and talented few), but we must do it anyway, even when we feel our skills are lacking, especially when we feel we are not up to the challenge. We must open the door and welcome women in. We must give space, for even the quietest among us, to express their ideas."
"The women of DBA have taught me that there is so much more to being a woman in this field than holding your own at a construction meeting. It’s maintaining client relationships and establishing new ones. It’s being an industry partner and thought leader on new technology and workplace trends. It’s curating the next, diverse generation to build equity and inclusion in the world. It’s using your voice to lift each other up. It’s doing all of this while being a mother, fur-mother, partner, elder caretaker, and still managing to keep your plants alive. I’m happy to be a woman in the AEC industry and I’m proud to be a woman of DBA."
"We amplify women’s voices through the small things every day—endorsing her great idea, asking for her perspective, or asking her to lead the team. We don’t always have to do something grand like calling out mansplaining or harassment, although those things matter, too. I think it’s the more subtle things that will amplify our voices over time."
"I am inspired by interior designer, Kelly Wearstler—she pushes the boundaries of design with her fearless use of color and texture in a way that you don’t see many designers doing. I aspire to be that confident and bold in my choices when I design. She has created such a successful name for herself exploring the world of furniture design so that she can truly customize her interior designs with her own furniture. Such an icon!"
"Frida Escobedo is a favorite architect of mine. The way her detailed designs read so clean and simplistic is admirable. The way she experiments with design is so interesting to me."
"Every day is a challenge or an opportunity and what we decide to do in response is a choice that inspires me to always be better."