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  • Writer's pictureWomen+ in Design PGH

Happy to Host

Perkins Eastman staff recap and reflect on hosting the first and also the most recent W+iD Happy Hours.

It’s hard to believe that about 14 months ago, women from Perkins Eastman sent invitations out of the blue to just some of the women in our address book to join us for a candid conversation about women’s leadership, focused on the architecture and design community of this city that we call home. That initial response was overwhelming as we started getting RSVPs from folks we hadn't invited and didn't even know yet!

We were inspired in late 2018 after months of lunchtime discussions -- both women only and entire staff -- about everything from work-life balance to continually being interrupted in meetings. It was agreed that this was a conversation bigger than just our office. No one could have then predicted the overwhelming success and excitement that has turned one spark into the genuine support and empowerment that has since been enhanced by a revitalized Women+ In Design Pittsburgh group.

Fast forward a little over a year: On a chilly January evening, Perkins Eastman invited everyone (there are now over 350 of you!) back to the Pennsylvanian building for the first Women+ In Design PGH happy hour of 2020. That evening, women held small group discussions prompted by many of the statements that we responded to at our very first happy hour back in November 2018. This was the perfect time to reflect on the momentum that had been created but to also remember that we are running that metaphorical marathon, not a sprint, towards changing the misconceptions of women’s leadership that are still very much prevalent in our industry today.

The poster from our 2018 happy hour capturing reactions to statements about being a woman in the workplace.


Here is a brief summary of the engaging conversations that were held!

I currently have an effective and inspiring mentor. / I feel supported and empowered to grow within the industry.

  • Mentorship is a two-way street. Mentors and mentees both benefit from the time together. You are always able to seek out additional mentors and shouldn’t feel the need limit yourself to just one mentor.

  • Empowerment comes from addressing your needs and answering tough questions. You are key source of your empowerment/confidence!

  • Empowerment can come from the support of others (mentors) or from within, but stepping out of your comfort zone may be necessary.

I feel supported as a woman in my firm. / I feel that there are gender-related barriers to advancing my career.

  • Some benefits that can increase feelings of a supportive workplace are access to a Mother’s Room and flexible working hours for new mothers.

  • Our voices ARE being heard in a male-dominated profession and we are making progress towards the equal rights we deserve!

  • We want to be empowered to be ourselves in the workplace, but we may still act differently on the job site and around the construction industry.

I consider myself a leader. / I am currently mentoring another woman (either inside or outside of the industry.)

  • Mentorship at various stages of your career path may happen in different forms. It also happens organically, sometimes without even knowing that it is occurring!

  • Mentoring is experienced based and is rooted in an exchange of advice. A mentor that works for the same company can be beneficial to receive guidance from someone who has a more direct understanding of various factors you may be dealing with. However, a mentor outside of your company or industry may offer unique perspective that you may not have otherwise considered.

  • Characteristics of being a leader include showing interest and initiative, advocating for those who you believe deserve it, and expressing your passions. Leadership is not a position that you are appointed. It is one that you embody!

I struggle with “work - life” balance. / I devote a significant amount of my time at work to emotional labor/non-project related planning/soft skills.

  • Work – life balance is all about choices. Setting boundaries is an effective strategy to ensure we keep our priorities and balances in line. Stick to them!

  • Women often feel guilty or feel like we must have a valid “excuse” even though we should not have to explain our actions or priorities.

  • We tend to be concerned about making sure that everyone is happy, is getting along, and that our team is communicating and working together well. We feel like this benefits the workplace, yet it is not recognized or rewarded by others.

I have had a conversation with a man in my office about women’s leadership. / I know of a #MeToo experience that has happened in the design industry.

  • It can be beneficial to talk with other women about how to discuss female representation / leadership roles with male counterparts to ensure a productive and constructive conversation. Talking to leadership informally or one-on-one is a great way to get to know each other and share experiences about how you feel in the office This could lead towards growth and improvement.

  • Many women have shared experiences about feeling belittled in meeting and being catcalled or hearing inappropriate comments in the office or job site. Should you respond to the comments or just ignore them?

  • Never be afraid to go to your office’s HR team or to an office representative whom you trust whenever you feel uncomfortable in any situation, even on a job site or in a client meeting.

Written and compiled by Jane Hallinan, IIDA, LEED Green Associate

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