March is National Women’s History Month, which honors the extraordinary achievements of American women, and is a perfect time to focus on women in the architecture profession.
According to a study by NCARB, the rate of women joining the profession is increasing. Women are also obtaining licensure faster than their male counterparts. In 2016, women accounted for 36% of newly licensed architects. Nearly 2 in 5 new architects are women, and women earned their initial license almost 10 months sooner than men. Overall, in 2016, women made up 24% of architects in the United States.
In celebration of Women’s History Month, we’ve asked Gerri Kielhofner, BRP Architect & Partner, Laura Daugherty, BRP Architect, and Nicole Shaul, BRP Intern Architect, to share their insights on the past, present and future of architecture and design.
Left to Right: Laura Daugherty, BRP Architect, and Nicole Shaul, BRP Intern Architect
Why did you want to work in architecture?
"Design and construction has always been a part of my life. Growing up, my family renovated and saved old houses and buildings along with some new construction. Architecture was a great fit for the creative artsy side and the “sciencey”- math side of my brain." – Laura
"I decided to be an architect in 7th grade. It seemed like a cool job then. As I have progressed through my education and early career, there have only been a few moments when I questioned my middle school whim. (Hello, rough critiques!) As I learned more about the profession, I realized it fit perfectly with my love of problem-solving and requires enough creativity to keep me interested." – Nicole
Gerri Kielhofner, BRP Architect & Partner, at her first job out of college at PGAV in Kansas City, MO
How have you seen the industry change since you began your career in architecture?
"Architecture has not necessarily changed – for me it’s still all about solving problems for clients, learning what they do, helping them do their job by creating buildings that function properly, and figuring out how to put a building together that works!" – Gerri
"The demand is in continual change. The tools we use to create are significantly different than when I started. Moving from 2D drafting to 3D modeling has been significant and has really enhanced our design process." – Laura
Nicole Shaul, BRP Intern Architect
What attracted you to join BRP?
"Honestly, I graduated in an economic slump, so I was lucky to get a job here. Then I realized after being here that the firm is very well organized and run by passionate people who are intent on doing an excellent job for their clients and the community." – Laura
"I was already familiar with the firm since I went to college in Springfield, but when I started looking for post-grad jobs, the size of BRP caught my eye. I like that it wasn’t a huge firm and that I wouldn’t just be a cog in the machine. What really won me over though, is the wide variety of projects BRP has worked on. Since I didn’t really know what kinds of projects I wanted to do, the promise of diverse types of projects–hospitality, entertainment, manufacturing–was very important." – Nicole
Tell me about your first project with BRP.
"My first project was detailing and drawing a house for Tim Rosenbury’s mother-in-law out in the country. Tim was the designer and I learned so much from that first project." – Gerri
"One of my first projects was the Cox Health Martin Diagnostic Imaging Center in Springfield, MO. It was a fascinating project on many levels. The MRI imaging equipment had lots of technical requirements, the project expanded a two-story building into a four-story building which came with some interesting design challenges and the location gave it a high-profile design opportunity. Of course, I was just an intern, so my job was assisting the project architects with everything and anything, and just absorbing as much information as I could. I was very proud to be a part of the team and I felt like even as a newbie I had the opportunity to bring ideas to the table." – Laura
How has your position changed over time? What responsibilities do you hold now?
"I started out as an intern, and after two or three years, I was working on projects as the Project Architect, eventually progressing to Project Manager with a team of architects under my direction. For most of my career, I helped produce the drawings and specifications for my projects. For the past several years, being a Project Manager on several projects at one time has not allowed for time to do production. I was also the main specification writer for the firm for probably 20 years, which was beneficial in helping me learn so much about all of the products we specify. This knowledge gave me more confidence when dealing with people in the industry who question women architects." – Gerri
"The profession is set up to have a mentoring period during the internship that develops you into being the lead architect on your projects. I would say that has been typical for me. I do more hands-on production than some people with my experience, but that is what I like and where I feel I am at my best." – Laura
Gerri Kielhofner, BRP Architect & Partner (center), and the team standing on top of the Embassy Suites Hotel & Convention Center in Denton, TX.
What’s your favorite thing about being an architect?
"I really love working with our team to design and detail buildings of all types and seeing the project built. I also really enjoy managing an entire team of consultants, contractors and working with clients to deliver the project they expected when they hired us as their architect." – Gerri
"I never do the same thing each day. Sometimes that gets a little challenging, but I love the fact that I have to solve problems, create things, and work with new people every day. I would be bored with anything repetitive." – Laura
"I’ve always enjoyed learning, so probably my favorite thing about being an architect (in training) is that I feel like I am constantly learning more and more about the profession. I know that is mostly because I am young and have a lot to learn, but I get the feeling that even 20 years from now I will still be learning something new every day. Oh, and site visits are pretty fun too!" – Nicole
What are some predictions for the future of the industry?
"I believe there will continue to be a shortage of architects. I also think architects will continue to develop even better energy efficient buildings that have less of an impact on global warming. My hope for the future is that more women will stay in the profession longer, because right now there are still too many women who end up leaving, due to the difficulty of raising a family while working long hours as an architect." – Gerri
"3D BIM modeling has been a significant change and I feel that it will continue to become more integral. Right now, only a handful of job sites are working with our models, but I feel that will become the norm in the not so distant future. Due to the speed of our technology, the design process has been constricted into shorter timeframes, and I don’t see that reversing. But with technology improvements, we will continue to work faster and more efficiently. It also seems the public has embraced design more, so I feel that good creative design will be of more value in the future." – Laura
Laura Daughtery, BRP Architect, and Nate Hay, BRP Intern Architect, took home the W in the CSI Bricklayer 100 last spring.
What advice do you have for women who want to pursue a career in architecture?
" I would tell women that they are a very valuable asset for the architecture profession. It’s not an easy road to becoming a licensed architect, but it is a very rewarding career!" – Gerri
"Don’t be afraid to pursue it. While it is still a very male-dominated profession, that is slowly shifting. My graduating class, for example, was 50% women." – Nicole
"Do it! The field is expanding for women. Flexible employers have made it possible for me to have a great career, but also be able to spend a lot of time with my family." – Laura
Also in the March Newsletter: Branson/Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce and CVB Breaks Ground BRP Timecapsule: Springfield Brewing Company