“International Women’s Day is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity.” As we celebrate International Women’s Day, we had the opportunity to speak to four incredible women that have knowingly chosen a male-dominated field and welcomed the challenge with open arms.
Amy Benetti, Associate Principal at MSA, didn’t experience the imbalance of the architecture industry until entering the workforce after graduation. “Honestly, it didn’t occur to me that I would be entering a profession that I could be in the minority. Growing up, my family was always involved in various building or renovation projects, so construction and trades were very familiar to me. When entering the Architecture program at Ball State University, I was very fortunate to have a diverse mix of classmates. It wasn’t until I had graduated and was out in the profession that I truly saw the lower numbers of female architects.” How has Amy helped be a part of the change? By getting involved and speaking up. “MSA has empowered and encouraged gender equality by encouraging growth and providing leadership opportunities. Because of this empowerment by our leadership, I have pushed myself to be more of a leader and mentor to other females in our office and our profession.”
Maggie Loeffler, Design Engineer at Duke Energy in Charlotte, North Carolina, never saw the disparity in male-to-female attendance as a deterrent to her goals, but as an opportunity to learn from others. “Because you are different, articulate differently, and have different powers as a woman, males sometimes try to find an explanation for these differences. What Duke Energy has worked to find is each employees’ strengths, no matter who you are. At Duke, our team caters to each other’s strengths to best accomplish our objective. That way, the work is optimized and efficient.” Duke Energy has implemented a Business Women Network program, that provides volunteer opportunities to be a Women in STEM Ambassador at local High Schools, as well as encourages attending the nationwide Energetic Women Conference, an annual conference held to network with other women in the industry and discuss career trajectory.
Melissa Tewart-Darwin, Project Engineer at Corna Kokosing, noticed the lack of females in her engineering program throughout her time in college and used it as an opportunity to closely connect with the few females in her class. She joined the Women in Engineering organization at The Ohio State University, where women in her program could build connections and share experiences. Melissa has noticed a steady increase in female construction managers as she’s grown into the field and finds the familiar faces empowering. “I think just seeing more females on a construction site creates that empowerment within us and it influences our male peers as well. My company has a higher percentage of female project engineers than most of our competitors. I’ve always been treated equally compared to my male colleagues and values the uniqueness of skills that each person brings to the table. This has always encouraged me to do my best no matter what kind of project I’m working on.”
Katie Freeland, Director of the Columbus Studio and Associate Principal at MSA, has noticed the push of creating more opportunities for connections within the industry. Katie admits that “at the beginning of my career, I was very intimidated by construction site visits or any type of meeting that included people outside of my core team. I felt that I constantly had to ‘prove’ that I belonged.” But it’s these experiences that she empathizes and shares with female interns and designers as they embark on their professional journey, and she strives to facilitate conversations on gender equality throughout the entire industry. “At MSA, we have a unique culture in that we encourage and allow people to create their own path. I came to the firm after I had worked a few other places, and I find our more relaxed approach to structure very refreshing. We are thoughtful and deliberate when creating our project teams, where we focus on individual strengths to craft a collaborative team that can best fit and serve each project and client.”
We as a firm emphasize the growth of female voices in the industry and celebrate all of the women that are a part of it.