O P I N I O N
Thoughts on A/E gender bias
W hen is enough enough? An age old question that is often muttered by someone in my YMCA class as we start the third set of burpees. Yes, I’m sure there are times when enough is enough, but is that ever the case for a leader? We must inspire, include, empower, and educate all genders, races, and ages to look past biases and change the cultural norms that have shaped and still affect our industry.
Throughout my career, I have been reluctant to join Women in Leadership groups as I felt my time inspiring change and mentoring those in my own practice was enough. I was especially reluctant to contribute my story to Zweig Group’s ElevateHer movement as I was sure there were many other successful women with inspiring stories that my observation alone was enough. But after sharing my own story and listening to the struggles of a group of young leaders, all of whom were women, I realized I had not done enough. Having recently left my position as president of a medium-sized architecture firm in the Midwest, I find myself debating how and if I want to re- enter the industry or pivot and apply my skills elsewhere. I spent 15 years working my way up through the ranks of a 50-year-old firm beginning as an interior designer, a project manager, and studio manager, and finally becoming a principal/partner and president charged with
strategically leading the day-to-day operations and transitioning the firm’s leadership/ownership to the next generation. As I earned my stripes, I clearly remember the day I was referred to as “Decorator Girl” during a meeting while my male counterparts were addressed by their names, not being included in after-hours leadership discussions at the bar (until I invited myself), or the unwritten dress code that was visibly different in the studio for male and female architectural staff. Although I realized there was an underlying gender bias, I was lucky to have the support and mentorship of key male colleagues along the way and made a conscious choice to not use gender as a device. Instead, this bias fueled my desire to earn the respect of my colleagues and clients based on my business skills, leadership, and work ethic.
See KRISTINE DORN, page 4
THE ZWEIG LETTER March 9, 2020, ISSUE 1335
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