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Residential Studio Director, Jennifer Wright

recently completed the

year-long Van Evera Bailey fellowship

 

We’re very proud of our Residential Studio Director, Jennifer Wright, who was recently celebrated by the Architectural Foundation of Oregon (AFO) for completing a year-long research project as its 2018 Van Evera Bailey (VEB) fellow.

 

This annual fellowship is awarded to architects to advance their career development and encourage greater contribution to their profession and community. It is an opportunity for architects to examine not only what they think, but how they think.

 

Jennifer used her fellowship to research gender inequity within the profession of architecture, specifically, the barriers women face with gaining construction knowledge. From her longtime involvement with the AIA Committee on Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, she saw the fellowship as an opportunity to continue her work towards understanding the underlying elements that push women out of the profession even as more women than men are graduating with architecture degrees.

 

The genesis of Jennifer’s research was the 2018 Equity by Design Symposium, where she learned of the AIA San Francisco’s project to collect the largest data set ever on equity within the U.S. design profession. The study illustrated a trend of career pinch points common to all architects, but which pose significant challenges to women in particular.

 

The AIA San Francisco study showed that one of the most impactful predictors for lack of success for women architects is lack of training in construction methods. Jennifer’s VEB Fellowship project asked how can we address this need at its most basic and local level? And what can be learned from existing strategies to stem the tide of attrition and in turn retain women in the field at all levels of advancement?

 

Her research included:

  1. Researching existing construction training programs, both academic and those hosted in the private sector.
  2. Participating in outreach efforts to individuals and organizations in order to gain their insight and collaboration.
  3. Attending and taking part in local construction-related workshops, volunteering with community organizations and participating in a week-long Carpentry for Women class in Vermont.

 

The outcome of the year’s study, coupled with survey feedback from more than 60 local women professionals, helped shape the framework for the final initiative.

 

What She Learned

Jennifer’s study revealed that although construction skills and education are beneficial, the primary value comes from tangential learning. Time spent crafting in a wood shop or volunteering with Habitat for Humanity teaches principles of learning how to fail safely with low stakes, of shaking off perfection to allow for inventiveness, of being comfortable in uncomfortable situations and creating a network of resources. These are all key skills needed to counter the daily pressures of the profession’s status quo and to create personal resiliency in the face of unequal odds.

 

A Stellar Example, Right Here in Portland

Designers Build PDX – an organization whose mission is to reduce opportunity barriers through construction know-how, hands-on training and professional development to women in architecture – is an excellent example of how these critical tangential lessons can be learned.

 

The organization seeks not only to retain talented women in the architecture profession, but also to advance more women leaders by promoting safe spaces to experiment, problem solve and innovate. Designers Build_pdx does this by organizing classes, tours & speakers related to our built environment, planning collaborate partnerships with purpose-driven organizations and curating an on-going calendar of building-related classes and events.

 

Visit designersbuildpdx.org to learn more about the fight for equity in the profession, to see infographics derived from the Equity by Design survey and to get involved.

 

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