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#breakthebias on International Women’s Day 2022.

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By Suzanne Ross – 8th March 2022

The theme of this year’s International Women’s Day (IWD), #breakthebias, resonated with many of our colleagues when we spoke to them.

Whether they are finding a voice in a typically male dominated industry, challenging stereotypes, or finding ways to empower and uplift we are celebrating the women of Corstorphine & Wright and the unparalleled contribution they make to our teams.

Laura Ruxton, Associate Director

“I’m not only a woman in the industry but I also come from another country I sometimes feel both things have combined to provide more challenges in my career. I graduated from Architecture in Colombia where most architects are women. It is traditionally a career where women find a place and men tend to gravitate more towards engineering as a profession. Having then moved to other countries, it was markedly different. In the UK, I have felt listened to and appreciated. However, after 17 years here, I still see there is a diversity imbalance that should be addressed. I’m sure other women in architecture will have faced other challenges or maybe none of them, but after speaking to other female architects the one constant is having to prove yourself time and again. The feeling of having to work harder for others to listen to you and acknowledge that maybe we are just as capable. To me success is more about being fulfilled with my work and enjoy the projects I work with and have a good relationship with clients and colleagues. It’s less about job titles and doing what I think other people expect of me. Working in healthcare has provided me with a lot of professional satisfaction, I enjoy creating spaces that will ultimately help people during their journey to recovery either for themselves or loved ones.”

Kavita Dhande, Part 2 Architectural Assistant

“To me, ‘Break the Bias’ means not feeling there are any limits regardless of gender – working as a young professional and feeling like your opportunities are endless. Breaking the Bias means walking into a room and not having a set of pre-determined or defined parameters associated to you based on your gender. Success looks like leadership and paving the way for those walking in the shoes you walked in ten years ago. Success is achieving your goals, dreams and aspirations based on your skills, knowledge, and hard work – not based on your gender or the ‘clique’ of people you work in. I was drawn to architecture because I have always been crafty and interested in project management and organisation as well as understanding detailing and construction. The problem solving and the vast array of skills utilised was the main appeal. There have been certain individuals in design meetings or coordination that struggle to accept or believe a female is representing a company or has a certain level of responsibility on a project. I generally feel the white, male has always had the advantage over the Asian, female but over the years with the hard work of all in the industry – it is getting better.”

Julie Smyth, Associate

“I interpret ‘break the bias’ as finding contentment in your own individuality – removing that niggling doubt of whether I’ll be accepted, or have I proven myself enough to overcome any potential prejudice, I believe that you have managed to ‘break the bias’ when you finally feel that just being yourself is enough. I was inspired to enter architecture because of a love for buildings and seeing the difference that a well thought out solution can make to people’s lives. This is particularly poignant for me in the care environment, a past personal experience made it very evident to me how the smallest details can have the biggest effect on a resident’s day to day life.  As an architect we have the incredible opportunity to make people’s lives happier and more comfortable. To me, success is happy repeat clients and, in my sector, happy content future residents! I absolutely feel like I’ve encountered challenges as a woman in this industry, it hasn’t always been an easy industry to be in, however I should stress that this was mainly when I first entered the industry.  I personally found that with experience came confidence and an ability to brush off any potential prejudice.”

Debbie Kyrkili, HR Executive

“Bias prevents employees from working together harmonically and can directly affect diversity and inclusion within the workplace. For that reason, we need to make sure that we break the bias and promote a more diverse workforce that enables creativity, innovation, and happy employees, no matter the gender. Success for me is being able to work in a field that you are passionate about and enjoy what you do no matter how hard or difficult it is. Success might be a big word and a distant notion for young professionals, so we need to encourage them to break it down into smaller, achievable targets to ensure a sense of accomplishments and joy in their daily professional lives. I am fortunate that my success and development has been measured against specific targets and personal skillset, rather than through comparison to counterparts”

Sarah Breedon, Marketing Manager

“For me it’s about recognising current industry stereotypes, identifying where we as a practice fall into these stereotypes and most important then challenging currently how we do things so we can create a more diverse and inclusive team which will foster an environment of collaboration, innovation and help make our working environments as rewarding as possible. So much has changed in the last couple of years and I truly believe there exists a real opportunity for the whole architectural industry to respond positively. I can’t wait to see which practices truly break the mould and drive change.”

Karen Crowe, Director, ESG

“To me, breaking the bias means making lasting change that achieves equity and revolutionises the architectural profession. The advice is I give to young women who are wanting to become/are in process of becoming architects is this: they will have to work extremely hard to overcome the stereotypes that still exist – sometimes on both sides – regarding female architects having a lower level of technical skill and understanding compared to their male peers. They will only begin to eradicate this if they are prepared to commit to becoming highly competent in industry standard software such as Revit as well as by gaining as much work experience as possible throughout their training.”

Erica Helmetag, Associate

“I was inspired to enter architecture because I really enjoyed art and one of my friends suggested I look into it. I liked the variety it offered and that is still true today, every day is different, and it keeps it interesting. I’ve often felt like, that as a woman, I must prove myself more than my male peers, this is especially true on the more technical/delivery side of the job. However, it is changing, and you see more and more women on site and in the design team. In recent years I’ve seen more women entering the industry which is exciting and encouraging.”

Chelsey Longson, Architectural Technician

“In our industry, women make up as little as 11%. To me ‘breaking the bias’ means women have the same opportunities as men in construction and the built environment. Society is now acknowledging that we need to normalize women working in roles that once previously were male dominant. ‘Successes comes in different forms for us all. Success for me is being content in your work and home. Having a happy working environment where you can achieve anything you put your mind to is important but having a stable home and surrounding yourself with people that lift you up on a daily basis is crucial. When playing games like ‘The Sims’ at a young age, I was always more interested in building houses and making it look perfect than creating the people. My family always said, ‘she will work at an Architects one day’ and here I am all these years later. I am forever grateful to The Sims for encouraging me to bring just a game to reality!”

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