REALIZE the Possibilities. DESIGN Your Reality. INFLUENCE Your Life & Community.
As President of the American Institute of Architects Eastern Illinois Chapter and with Women in Construction Week winding down, I feel the responsibility to discuss the importance of Women in Construction and how leaders can create an environment to encourage long-term female employment and leadership opportunities in the construction industry.
I have always advocated for women in architecture / construction, and in fact, this topic is one of the main platforms I consistently discuss with the American Institute of Architects Eastern Illinois Chapter. I firmly believe that diversity and inclusion extends beyond race and ethnicity; it must also include gender. While there has been progress made over the years, especially recently, women are still facing challenges that keep them from attaining leadership positions or staying in the industry at all.
Why is this?
According to the 2017 Architectural Reviews (AR’s) Sixth Annual Women in Architecture survey, 60% of women reported that having a child had a detrimental effect on their career trajectory. First of all, let’s take a quick look at the numbers. Because of the long path to becoming a licensed architect, females are already having children way later in life, on average. The mean age of a first-time mother in the United States is 26.3 and in architecture, the median age is 32.
It is my belief that females should not have to choose between being a mother or furthering their career, and at JP Architects Ltd., I have instituted policies and systems that allow for flexibility and family-focus. Our systems are all cloud-based with remote login. Gone are the days where it’s required to be in the office at the drafting table. Furthermore, we must encourage our female employees to finish their license and work towards leadership roles. At JP Architects Ltd., we pay for study materials, as well as, reimburse the cost for the tests. Both these are simple measures that every company can introduce into their culture; they are repeatable, and I encourage all owners and leaders to consider instituting them.
Investing in your employees generally results in long term commitment to and continued growth from within your company. An indicator of a healthy company is employee retention and promotion. And as leaders, it’s our responsibility to provide the tools for all to succeed, which ultimately establishes a diverse and equitable practice and increases creativity and capability. From my personal experience, when you have a diverse and equitable leadership, you can expect more productivity, buy-in and open communication at all levels of the organization.
A Personal Story
I’d like to introduce everyone to our female employee Cristina Capetillo. She’s been with JP Architects, Ltd. for three years and is an integral team member. Cristina has taken on more responsibilities throughout her time with our firm. She initially drafted documents for our residential properties and communities for our corporate home builders. Soon thereafter, she began conducting site visits and measurements for our private clients. To now, where she’s moved into drafting classroom documents for Chicago Public Schools. Cristina recently led our team through the conceptual design of a Performing Arts Center for a one of our clients. The outcome was impressive and showed the power of diverse opinions and trust in female leadership. She has been an absolute pleasure to have on the team, and we look forward to her being a JP Architects, Ltd. team member for many years to come.
“One of the aspects I appreciate most about JP Architects, Ltd. is the work/life balance policy we have in place” said Capetillo. “There have been occasions when I visit my family abroad and am still able to work remote. This has really increased my happiness in my career. Furthermore, I can’t understate how important is has been to have leader like Jose. He is always providing more opportunities to learn and improve, which motivates me to continue to pursue my career aspirations.”
My Hope for the Future
It is my hope that the construction industry continues to elevate and share the accomplishments of the women in construction – not just one week out of the year, but consistently. Beyond that, it’s important for the industry to continue to make progress by placing more women in leadership positions and ownership roles. I will continue do to my part and bring awareness to this topic. I will also practice what I preach and as JP Architects, Ltd. grows, there will be a woman in leadership and more female employees on our team.
Leaders — it’s on us to institute policies and work towards making the construction industry more diverse and equitable. Let’s get it done.
Until next time,
Jose R. Pareja, AIA