It's been a full week since I ventured up north to Seattle to participate in the AIA Women in Leadership Summit. That's approximately how long it's taken to allow the influence of this conference to sink in. This was the first AIA conference I've ever attended and I had set some high hopes. Being heavily involved with Portland's AIA women's group, ForWARD, I was hoping to find some kindred spirits and new ideas to promote mentorship within our professional community. On a personal level I was hoping for inspirational anecdotes leading to some clarity of purpose, something that would reinvigorate my passion. As an introvert heading into this event I was fairly terrified; I knew there would be the requisite breakout sessions, social dinners & requests for me to voice my opinion. But I bolstered myself with plenty of Susan Cain's brand of quiet confidence and acknowledged even the smallest of successes. I came back with so much information, education, statistics and bits of conversations whirring around in my brain, that it took me a few days to assess what it all meant to me on a personal level. In retrospect, I am confident that this confluence of over 300 professional women (& a handful of men) was the best thing that I could've done for myself in this stage of my life and I leave you with the top five highlights of that weekend.
- "You are empowered to design your career, to make your story visible so that those arriving after you know your struggles and learn how you overcame obstacles." Carole Wedge of Shepley Bullfinch. This quote came on the heels of Rosa Sheng's discussion on the statistics bared by the 2014 Equity in Architecture survey which highlighted the various career pinch points that cause architecture graduates to leave the profession. It does so often seem like those that are successful never wavered from their focus, so celebrating our authentic voice and struggles (sometimes as voiced in this blog) was encouraging.
- Note to self : bulk up on business cards before a conference! Ugh, I ran out of cards after my first break out session shortly after breakfast. Thankfully there turned out to be one person at each of my sessions that took the initiative to email the whole group with all of our information, so we can remain connected even if some of us aren't at the top of our networking game!
- Power posing was in full swing at this event! Ever since Amy Cuddy's seminal TED Talk about body language, it has become requisite at any woman's event to break out a power pose. No complaints here - I'm a huge fan, although mine usually happens in a bathroom stall before an important meeting....
- The keynote speaker, Courtney Martin, had amazing insight into the profession's leaky pipeline problem as an outsider - tasked to investigate the occupation's lack of gender parity. Her cultural critique wielded amazing observations and much accord in the audience as to possible solutions, such as creating a top 10 list of family friendly firms which is common in the field of law and creates enthusiastic competition.
- Dedicating energy towards action was the final goal: disseminating information, creating connections and setting personal goals. Several times throughout the weekend we were asked to write out what our plan of action would be to make a difference for ourselves, our firm and the profession. These are the questions that I couldn't answer before but wanted to, and in the end I did.
For myself: I will not question my spirit, I strive to consistently base my decisions on curiosity rather than fear.
For my firm : I will be authentic and voice my story. I will start an initiative, support mentoring by creating a group supporting equity and championing diversity.
For my profession : I will advocate for the value women bring to the profession and dedicate myself to be a lifelong learner.
wonder woman image sourced at terripaddock.com