Tomorrow I will be hosting, along with my colleague Celeste, a panel discussion focused on the issue of life/work balance. We are both on a committee through the Portland AIA (American Institute of Architects), called ForWARD which stands for Forum for Women in Architecture & Related Design. The committee had disbanded for several years until the beginning of 2013, when it was revived by a small group of earnest women architects. The committee is small, although we usually get 25-45 people attending our larger events like lectures or tours, the monthly planning meetings top out at 8 at the most. We share stories, lend advice, even helped a couple people land jobs, but most of all shared our personal insights regarding the ongoing disourse about the lack of female architects (as compared to female architecture graduates) and its bearing on the balance of life and work.
2013 was the year of focusing the spotlight on gender inequality, with the debut of Sherryl Sandberg's book "Lean In" full of practical advice on reaching professional goals and gaining a "seat at the table", as well as a whole host of articles, opinion pieces and web sites devoted to the topic - there's no lack of support material for both sides of the debate. Now after many months of research and discussion within our modest group, we convene a panel of 6 local design practitioners to weigh in with their own experience in an event we've titled Careers in the Balance. The questions we will be asking are these: how do you define the balance of your work and home life, how do you keep yourself relevant in your field, how do you define success, how do you prioritize your time, do you devote time to non-work activities, is your work-space separate from your home/living space, and where are you most productive and for which activities? These are the people that have been able to successfully remain in the field of architecture, so how does this relate to the many other women that have left the field - what opportunities or support do these professionals have in place that others may not have or from a different perspective, what was it about alternative careers that appeared more compelling for those that left - perhaps these are the next panelists we need to convene in order to gain valuable insights into their experience and their definitions of success.
I invite you to take a look at some of the informational resources that I've been investigating throughout the year, many of which focus on the challenges women face working and advocating within the rigours of the architectural profession. Also, if you are in town tonight, I encourage you to attend this panel discussion at the AIA (5:30 - 8:15) and share your opinion.