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On International Women's Day: Meet the BEAT Team!

08 Mar 2017
 
Image Credit: BEAT
Architectural Credit: N/A
 
Building Equality in Architecture Toronto (BEAT), is an independent organization dedicated to the promotion of equality in the profession of Architecture through advocacy, mentorship, and networking.

Since its launch in 2015, BEAT has continued to successfully deliver events and web content that promote the advancement of women in the profession, and provide mentorship, networking and leadership opportunities.  The success of BEAT, and its initiatives are reflective of the commitment and dedication of its Executive and Advisory Committee members. 

BEAT’s Executive Committee consists of: 
Joy Charbonneau, KPMB Architects
Rachel Cyr, KPMB Architects
Timea Jakab, Holt Renfrew
Stephanie Hosein, Omar Gandhi Architects Inc.,
Camille Mitchell, KPMB Architects
Dimitra Papantonis, Williamson Williamson Inc.
Sonia Ramundi, Williamson Williamson Inc.

BEAT’s Advisory Committee consists of:
Shirley Blumberg, Founding Partner, KPMB Architects 
Meg Graham, Principal, Superkul Inc.
Pat Hanson, Founding Partner, gH3 Inc. 
Brigitte Shim, Principal, Shim-Sutcliffe Architects Inc. 
Betsy Williamson, Principal, Williamson Williamson Inc

In honor of International Women’s Day, we are pleased to present this Q&A with few of the Executive Committee members of BEAT.  
  


1) Can you tell us a bit about:
a. Your educational background? 
I have an undergraduate and graduate degree of the University Waterloo School of Architecture. 

b. Your cultural background? 
I am Hungarian, moved to Canada when I was three.  

c. Professional background (how did you begin your career...)?
I began doing co-op terms through Waterloo and then continued to work in the field in a variety of firms; interior, residential, commercial. I'm currently on the Store Planning & Design team at Holt Renfrew and love it. 

2) What stage are you at your career in architecture?
I will be licensed as of this January - finally! 

3) Why the field of architecture? 
I love the idea that spaces can tell or create stories.

4) What is your role with B.E.A.T? 
My role is primarily that of Social Media & Communications. 

5) What provoked/inspired you to be part of B.E.A.T? Share your story? 
The idea of women in architecture not only coming together, but rooting for and helping each other is paramount. This is a male dominated profession and it's so important that women have conversations with each other that move beyond an explanation of their portfolios; the experience of being a women in this field is unique and universal and one that needs to be shared. 

6) What do you hope to gain/what messaging are you hoping to send out by being part of B.E.A.T? 
For me, the most important message would be one of females supporting females. Be in career mentorship or general life advice, BEAT is a great group and resource.

7) Your thoughts on cultural diversity within the profession of Architecture? 
It's so important that our organizations and workplaces foster the changing face of young architects. In any office in Canada, you'll find an eclectic mix of people, in ranging ages, genders and ethnicities. This needs to be highlighted more. 

8) What do you see as the biggest challenges in the coming years for architecture (and women in architecture)?  
I think one of the biggest challenges is (and has been) getting women licensed, promoted and represented in the field. There's a missing and important discussion too which revolves around the emphasis on a work-family balance. Though it's not a new idea, perhaps I'm at the age where it's becoming more and more relevant. 

9) Do you have a particular project -a project that you worked on- that you can say changed the way you perceived the profession of architecture in Ontario?
I don't have a particular project in mind. In general, every project I've worked on has taught me a different aspect of the profession and that's been very rewarding. 

10) Words of Wisdom for emerging young professional just entering the field of architecture? 
Just be yourself!
 


1) Can you tell us a bit about: 
a. Your educational background?  
I spent two years at UBC in Vancouver studying science and fine arts before returning home to Halifax to pursue architecture at Dalhousie University.  I completed both my BEDS and MArch degrees at Dalhousie. 

b. Your cultural background? 
I was born and raised in Halifax, Nova Scotia.  My father is from Trinidad and Tobago, and my mother is from New Brunswick.  Even though I never had any Trinidadian relatives in Halifax, I have a group of close family friends who have become as close as family and who have introduced me to the food, music, lifestyle and rich culture of Trinidad.  I have German roots through my mother, and its interesting reflecting back on how the incredibly different cultures of both sides of my family have played a large role in defining who I am today.   

2) What stage are you at your career in architecture?  
I am a recently licensed architect who joined Omar Gandhi Architect’s Toronto office as an Associate in October 2016.  Prior to that, I worked at KPMB Architects for five years. 

3) What is your role with B.E.A.T?  
I assist with programming of various events, and also help behind the scenes with accounting and logistics.  I am currently working to collect relevant statistics about women in architecture in Canada.
There are many statistics related to women in architecture in the U.S., but very few in Canada. 

4) What provoked/inspired you to be part of B.E.A.T? Share your story? 
I didn’t know the extent to which the profession is still male-dominated until I finished school and entered the work force.  The ratio of men to women in most Canadian architecture schools is equal, but that ratio changes drastically in the working world.  It was a harsh wake-up call to face this reality, and to realize how large of a factor gender plays in one’s delegated responsibilities, confidence and ultimately success in the field of architecture.  Another concern that led to my involvement with B.E.A.T. was the large number of very talented female colleagues leaving the profession for various reasons, many of which have roots in inequality.  I have since learned that this is the norm in architecture based on statistics released by architectural licensing bodies in the U.S., the UK and Canada.   

5) What do you hope to gain/what messaging are you hoping to send out by being part of B.E.A.T?  
There is a lot of work to be done in this industry, but I am fully aware that this is not an issue that is isolated to architecture.  I've encountered sexist and discriminatory attitudes throughout my career.  Female architects are just as knowledgeable and competent as their male counterparts, but in many instances are not valued as such.  There are a variety of reasons for this, one of which is that it is still a male-dominated industry.  I read an interesting article last year about how media has shaped the public perception of “the architect”.  When you think of architects in major Hollywood productions or popular tv shows, can you think of one that that has been portrayed by a female actor?  Or a role that has been played by a person of colour?  Even Hollywood perpetuates the stereotype that architecture is a career for men – more specifically, a career for older, white men.  

6) Your thoughts on cultural diversity within the profession of Architecture? 
I believe it is extremely important to create and maintain diversity within architecture.  You will be working with clients from a wide range of cultural, racial and gender backgrounds so it is very important to have an equally diverse profession to represent the needs of those for whom you are designing.  Especially living in a city as diverse as Toronto, it is critical to encourage cultural diversity in all professions, including architecture.  My sister is a big advocate for equity and equality among marginalized people, including racialized and LGBTQ* persons, and has been a tremendous influence in my life in that respect.  

7) What do you see as the biggest challenges in the coming years for architecture (and women in architecture)? 
When I speak to female colleagues, an issue that comes up time and time again is the retention of women in the architecture profession.  It is a difficult career to lead while also maintaining work-life balance, and many women hoping to start families face the harsh reality of feeling like they need to choose between excelling professionally or having children.  There are definitely some who are able to make it work, but that decision may come with sacrifices on both ends – perhaps not putting as much face time in the office as the employer expects, or missing out on precious family time at home.  I don't have an answer to this dilemma.  Architecture is an amazing profession because of how collaborative it is - that's one of the aspects of my work that I enjoy the most.  But on the other hand, the importance of face-to-face teamwork makes it difficult to entertain flexible work hours to balance work and family responsibilities.  For example, working from home part-time is not realistic for most architects as they are expected to spend the majority of their time in the office in a team setting.   
  


1) Can you tell us a bit about:
a. Your educational background?
I completed the undergraduate and graduate program at the University of Waterloo.  

b. Your cultural background?
I was born in Canada and am involved with Caribbean and African diaspora. 

c. Professional background (how did you begin your career...)?
My first exposure to architecture profession was through placements in high school. I was primarily exposed to architecture through colleagues at Garwood Jones and Hannam at Hamilton.  I was interested in applying for university program at University of Waterloo. I am grateful for the undergrad program at University of Waterloo, for it was very diverse and provided both practical and theoretic experience. The Co-op experience was an honour of the program and I was fortunate enough to complete studies in Waterloo, Cambridge, Montreal and Rome. 

2) What stage are you at your career in architecture?
I am a liscenced architect with the OAA. 

3) Why the field of architecture?
Interest in building and contributing to shape our surroundings. 

4) What is your role with B.E.A.T?
Assist with managing and associating programs or events that provide opportunities to network and promote diversity for architects across Toronto. 

5) What provoked/inspired you to be part of B.E.A.T? Share your story?
Initially, I became a member of BEAT to associate and network amongst other architects across the city. 

6) What do you hope to gain/what messaging are you hoping to send out by being part of B.E.A.T?
I hope to continue to encourage and support opportunities and celebrations that promote diversity. 

7) Your thoughts on cultural diversity within the profession of Architecture?
I am honoured to advocate for the profession and minority groups that are underrepresented professionally.  

8) Do you have a particular project -a project that you worked on- that you can say changed the way you perceived the profession of architecture in Ontario? 
My projects have been out of province for the past six years. 

9) Words of Wisdom for emerging young professional just entering the field of architecture?
Make the best and interpret the architectural profession how you feel and see fit. 



1) Can you tell us a bit about:
a. Your educational background?
My undergraduate was an Honours Double Major in Architecture and Economics at the University of Toronto, where I also completed my Master of Architecture. Fun fact, my graduating M. Arch class consisted of two thirds women.

b. Your cultural background?
First generation born in Canada, with a Greek cultural background.

2) What stage are you at your career in architecture?
Currently completing my internship.

3) Why the field of architecture?
As a child I wanted to be multiple things at once: a mathematician, a teacher, a builder, an accountant, etc - all this while also saying I'd be a writer and artist on the side. In the end architecture found me while I was applying for university and has since stuck. 

4) What is your role with B.E.A.T?
I'm a member of the Executive Committee. Currently helping coordinate our third annual Women in Architecture Seminar. 

5) What provoked/inspired you to be part of B.E.A.T? Share your story?
There is a Greek proverb that says 'a society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in'. I want to share my experiences, learn from others, and help shape the future of our profession. Overall, I want to plant trees I may not be able to sit under.

6) What do you hope to gain/what messaging are you hoping to send out by being part of B.E.A.T?
It’s not just about women. It's about equality. The first two seminars had a great male turnout, as have some of our Mentorship Mondays. Through these events BEAT provides exposure to and mentorship by leaders in a profession that, although fairly equal at the university level, is still male dominated. This is what it's all about, awareness of what is happening around us, and helping bridge gaps through mentorship and networking.  Change doesn't come from women only talking to women, but by engaging everyone. The same goes for all other minority groups in architecture. Everyone should have an equal voice and opportunity.  

Our events really are open to everyone! From seminars, to building tours, and parties to name a few. Check out our website and sign up for our mailing list for more information: http://www.beatoronto.com/about-2/ 

7) What do you see as the biggest challenges in the coming years for architecture (and women in architecture)? 
I’d rather discuss things to look forward to. It is exciting to see more women in different roles on site and on project teams - from architects, engineers, plumbers, contractors, and more. It is equally exciting to be working with groups of both men and women who treat each other with the respect and trust they deserve. We all have something different to bring to the table. I look forward to more of this in the coming years. 

8) Words of Wisdom for emerging young professional just entering the field of architecture?
Find mentors you respect and learn from their years of experience. Feel comfortable asking questions, it’s okay not to know everything. Trust yourself. 'Proceed and be bold' - Samuel Mockbee
 
 
 

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