Tag Archives: #equity

AIA NJ Women in Architecture Committee Hosts a Dynamic Conversation featuring Cecilia Coakley

freeholder and speaker.JPGArchitects, Associates and Elected Officials Meet to Discuss

Perceptions and Expectations of Leaders




At their annual program, the New Jersey Chapter of the American Institute of Architects Women in Architecture Committee (AIA NJ WIA) Chairwoman and Second Vice President Kim Vierheilig, AIA, and VP of LAN Associates, led a lively Q&A with Senior VP of MWW PR, Cecilia Coakley.



The evening began with an hour of socializing, courtesy of Michael Halebian & Co., offering networking with the likes of Bergen County Freeholder Chairwoman Tracy Silna Zur and AIA NJ President Elect Verity Frizzell, AIA.






Little Ferry Mayor, Mauro D. Raguseo welcomed an audience of over 50 industry professionals to Brix City Brewing, before Kim and Cecilia began their exchange about gender bias in corporate America.




According to Coakley, 37% of Americans view women as not being assertive enough. She believes that women should more clearly convey their expectations to their employer and push for those expectations to be met. Additionally, 45% believe women are better than men at managing people, yet she finds female leaders have a hard time taking appropriate credit for the success under their leadership.

Cecilia reminded the women in the audience to encourage the next generation of women but to also have the conversation with men. “Let’s bring more people into the discussion. We need more diversity to make a change. We need to be candid about it.”




On the subject of work-life balance, Coakley says, “If you don’t change the expectations of flexibility in the workplace, companies are risking the greatest use of their own talent.” She suggests, “You have to fit your work into your life, not your life into your work.”


Cecilia pointed out that women are subjected to unconscious bias, even from peers who claim to support professional equality. Our upbringing sets our minds and we judge and are judged even without realizing. She offers, “In order to drive change and change the perception of women as business leaders, we need to open up the dialogue and have transparent conversations about how we can work together.”




According to AIA NJ President Elect Frizzell, events like these are a high priority to AIA NJ, as equity, diversity, and inclusion are central to the professional mission of the organization. Chairwoman Vierheilig speaks multiple times per year, both to the membership and outside of the organization, on the importance of equality in the workplace, which is especially a priority in a male-dominated industry such as architecture and construction.


About AIA and AIA New Jersey

Founded in 1857, the American Institute of Architects (AIA) is the professional organization that helps architects serve the public’s needs and builds awareness of the role of architects and architecture in American society. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., the 300 plus local chapters represent 89,000licesnsed architects and allied professionals. The organization’s local chapter, AIA New Jersey, has served as the voice of the architectural profession in the Garden State since 1900. Based in Trenton, AIA New Jersey has 2,000 members in six local sections. For more information, please visit http://www.aia-nj.org.



AIA NJ Women in Architecture Panel

161020 AIA 97-X2red_eagleAs architects we are called on to provide design solutions to social and economic issues that exist in our communities.  These issues mandate that we are able to understand and reflect the views of the people we represent.  To that end, diversity is vital to architecture, its relevance and the solutions it provides our diverse communities.

According to NCARB, 42 percent of new NCARB Record holders are women, compared to 18 percent of Certificate Holders.  While women remain underrepresented among practitioners, they now represent at least a third of licensure candidates at each stage along the path to licensure.

On the surface, it seems our profession is improving.  However, we need to dig a bit deeper to see the full story.  In 2014, AIA San Francisco’s Equity by Design Committee released a full report, and the statistics were eye-opening.  While 42% of college graduates from programs accredited by the National Architecture Accrediting Board are women, only 28% of architectural staff in firms, 26% of licensed architects and 17% of partners are women.  The truth is we are enrolling more women than ever in college, however far too many are leaving the profession.

Last year at Design Day, AIA NJ asked three women at different stages of their career to talk about the state of women in the profession.   Karen Nichols, FAIA a Partner at Michael Graves; Stacey Ruhle Kliesch, AIA, a sole practitioner and Jaclyn Gazelle, an architectural intern.  Each of them had advice for how to climb the ladder, while still having a work-life balance.  They stressed the necessity for firms to create a work culture that was flexible and rewarding for both the employee and the employer.  Finally, the importance of mentorship both internal and external to a firm and the role AIA can provide in mentoring our next generation of leaders.


161020 AIA 94-S        Kim Vierheilig, AIA

Diversity – Women in Architecture Chairperson

Second Vice President

AIA New Jersey