AIANJ Women in Architecture meeting was held May 26th.
Article originally printed in NJBIZ, click here for full article.
SpeakEasy is a running feature in NJBIZ in which we recap presentations given by key business leaders around the state. This report is based on a speech delivered by Lauren Anderson, a consultant and former FBI executive, on May 26 at a gathering of women in architecture hosted by Hoagland, Longo, Moran, Dunst & Doukas in New Brunswick.
As she spoke to a female audience from the New Jersey Society of Architects, Lauren Anderson said her former role as an FBI executive and her current role of geopolitical consultant, security and crisis expert and public speaker seemingly gave her little in common with those in the room.
Then she let out the connection: Like all of them, she knows all about being a female in a male-dominated industry.
“I went up to the second supervisor I ever had at the FBI and directly said to him, ‘I want the opportunity to have a certain kind of case,’” she said. “And he said, ‘Well, you’re the best female agent I’ve ever seen.’”
“I told him, ‘When you can say I’m the best agent you’ve ever seen, then we’ll have something to talk about.’”
Anderson had plenty to talk about in her presentation before a room of 30 late last month. Architecture, after all, has a gender challenge.
While 42 percent of architecture graduates are women, only an estimated 15 to 18 percent move on to become licensed professionals, resulting in a workforce that is disproportionately male.
Anderson discussed the steps necessary to prepare, develop and inspire women to take their fair and equal share of leadership roles.
Speaking at the New Brunswick offices of Hoagland, Longo, Moran, Dunst & Doukas, Anderson urged the other women in the room to take on the challenge.
“Don’t let things stop you just because you perceive or see barriers in front of you in your profession, firm or anywhere along the way,” she said. “Just think of it as noise.
“It’s just extraneous noise, so try to just block it out and stay focused on what you want.”
Anderson stressed the importance of networking events, such as this gathering of women in architecture, as a great tool in fighting that noise.
But she also encouraged women to network outside of their professional circles.
“One of the things I didn’t do well until very late in my career was to realize that it would benefit me personally and professionally to start reaching out to people outside my profession,” she said. “I have a network now of all these amazing women around the world, some who are professors; others are senior members of telecommunications companies in Europe or at Texas Instruments.
“It was so amazing to be with these women, hear about these experiences and realize that I had thought, up to that point in time, that no one could understand what I was going through and what the challenges were if they weren’t in my profession. And that wasn’t true.”
Architecture, she said, actually has come a long way.
In preparation for her talk, Anderson said she came across a piece of history that astounded her.
It was the story of Louise Blanchard Bethune, who opened her own architecture practice in 1881 and is identified as the first woman architect in the United States.
“On the centennial anniversary of her death, they had a ceremony and laid a tombstone on her grave,” she said.
Why is that a big deal? Anderson explained.
“Up until that time, the tombstone where she was buried only reflected her husband’s name and dates — nothing on her,” she said. “It’s a fascinating bit of trivia that it took 100 years for people to recognize who she is and put a grave marker on her grave that reflected who she was.
“And her husband was an architect, but she was an architect before meeting her husband.”
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