Women in Architecture: Resources for Professional GrowthWomen have historically been underrepresented in architecture, but a recent report from the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB) shows encouraging and steady growth in numbers of women entering the profession.

This year’s study, 2015 NCARB by the Numbers, found a record-high number of women are on the path to earning their architecture license. While this is a big step forward, there’s still a lot of opportunity — including increasing retention and bridging the gap from entry-level to leadership positions. Fortunately, a number of organizations and programs are dedicated to doing just that. Let’s take a look:

An Organizational Network

As part of this growing representation of female architects, organizations  around the globe are focusing their efforts on encouraging and fostering the success of all women in the industry — from emerging professionals to established leaders — through professional development, mentorships and increased networking opportunities.

These organizations are also gaining momentum through national collaborations, like the recent American Institute of Architects (AIA) Women’s Leadership Summit.

This biennial series seeks to raise the profile of female principals and leaders in the profession by sharing and promoting the design work of women, exploring new paths to leadership and learning from each other about professional issues and challenges.

The sold-out 2015 Summit reflected a new focus on increasing the value of the architectural design profession and many other challenges facing these professionals.

Advocacy for Cultural Change

Beyond personal career advancement, women in architecture organizations are gathering ideas and research for new modes of practice to advance the profession. Regionally, the Iowa Women in Architecture group published this Best Practices White Paper in 2014.

Nationally, AIA San Francisco’s Missing 32% Project performed a survey and published its findings in the Equity in Architecture 2014 Report, resulting in the nationally approved resolution 2015.1 AIA Equity in Architecture Resolution.

Internationally, the Australian organization Parlour brings together research, opinion and resources to promote gender equity in architecture. Resources include Parlour Guides to Equitable Practice and research contribution opportunities such as the Mapping Women project, which builds a historical archive for women in architecture.

Professional Development and Mentorship

Mentorships are at the heart of the architectural profession. Programs like the Women in Design Kansas City Mentorship Program connect women in the industry who share similar interests, enabling them to learn from each other and grow as professionals.

Whether peer-to-peer or cross-generational, mentorship programs like these offer ample opportunity for personal and professional development. And it runs the gamut from advice on career growth options, opportunities to discuss particular fields of interest within or beyond architecture, or to the details of assistance editing resumes, cover letters and portfolios.

Small mentorship groups, like Lean In Circles, that create cross-generational networks around specific topics are becoming increasingly popular; research shows that these peer support groups are powerful, giving women more confidence and the ability to learn and accomplish more in small group settings. The AIAKC PIERS Program is a recent example of this small group concept, providing opportunity for all architects, with any background and at any career level.

Beyond Architecture

Architecture is just one profession influencing the built environment. Groups like Commercial Real Estate Women (CREW Network) and the Urban Land Institute’s Women’s Leadership Initiative provide opportunities to build a network of clients and collaborators while gaining professional insight and development.

I’ve personally witnessed the career impact that comes from being involved in these professional groups through my leadership experience within the AIA locally and nationally, and now through participation with the Burns & McDonnell Professional Women’s Exchange — an internal group dedicated to expanding opportunities for women to improve their careers and personal development through education and networking.

With the amazing contributions of these professional organizations and their commitment to improving mentorship, networks and the culture of architectural practice, our industry is on a trajectory toward a rich and diverse future.

If you’re like me, you’re always looking for ways to advance your architectural career. I’d love learn more about how you do it. What are some of your favorite organizations or programs for personal and professional development?

Amy Slattery is a senior architect and project manager at Burns & McDonnell, where she leads the science and technology design practice. She’s known for project management and design critique for complex building types, with specializations in leading integrated project teams, laboratory design, higher education, arts facilities and sustainable strategies.


Celebrating Employee Ownership Month It’s finally October, which means National Employee Ownership Month is officially underway! And for those who know us, you know we never pass up an opportunity to celebrate. But there’s a lot more to this month’s celebrations than food and fun. Our Employee Stock Ownership Plan — or ESOP — defines who we are as a company. And the month of October is all about understanding our ESOP, embracing our history and appreciating the one thing that makes our company culture extra special.

Employee Ownership: What’s the Big Deal?

We talk a lot about employee-ownership, but that’s because it’s the core of who we are. But what exactly does that mean?

Rutgers published a study on the impacts of an ESOP on corporate culture and found that employee-owned firms grow faster, have lower turnover and are more financially stable than comparable companies without ESOP plans. Employees at these companies accumulate about two to three times the retirement benefits compared to the accumulations of employees in non-ESOP companies. So at the end of the day, it’s the employees — rather, the employee-owners — who reap the ultimate benefits.

Additionally, in a survey conducted by the Employee Ownership Foundation, 92 percent of respondents said that creating employee ownership through an ESOP was a good business decision and one that benefits companies.

Even more interesting? Nearly 77 percent said that having an ESOP positively affected the overall productivity of employees. We’ve found that to be true at Burns & McDonnell — when you own it, literally and figuratively, it makes a tremendous difference. In fact, if you ask our team, many of them cite our employee ownership culture among their favorite things about working here.

Even More Reason to Celebrate

This year, in addition to celebrating 29 years of employee-ownership, we’re also celebrating another milestone: our ranking as the 23rd largest employee-owned company in the nation!

The National Center for Employee Ownership (NCEO) recently released its 2015 Employee Ownership 100 list, an annual ranking of the nation’s largest companies that are majority owned by an ESOP or other qualified employee ownership plan.

Not all the companies on the list are 100 percent employee-owned like Burns & McDonnell, and to make this achievement even more remarkable, just two years ago, Burns & McDonnell ranked 35th on NCEO’s list.

Being one of the few 100 percent employee-owned and one of the largest ESOPs in the nation is unusual, and we think that  makes us pretty special.

In fact, of the more than 11,000 ESOP companies nationwide, roughly 4 percent of those companies are 100 percent employee-owned. Even fewer have been employee-owned for more than 25 years like Burns & McDonnell.

The companies on NCEO’s ESOP list represent a variety of industries and trades, but a common thread is our appreciation for the countless benefits provided by employee ownership.

The only true way to appreciate the value of being 100 percent employee-owned is to come find out for yourself what it’s all about. Check out our current openings, and maybe next year you’ll be part of the excitement. And if you’re joining in on the Employee-Ownership Month celebrations, we’d love to hear from you! Let us know how you’re celebrating in the comments below.


Benefits of Job Shadowing for STEM Careers

by Emily Rhoden July 30, 2015

Students learn so much by observing — and, if they’re lucky, participating in — the everyday activities of employees. Exposing students to the workplace through job shadowing has long been a commitment at Burns & McDonnell. We see how job shadowing changes a student’s perspective. A recent study showed students exposed to science, technology, engineering […]

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What It Takes to be a Project Manager

by Jordan Ott July 9, 2015

Project manager — the title alone sounds a bit intimidating. Juggling multiple projects at once, managing schedules and budgets, carrying responsibility for the outcome. It may not be an easy job, but it’s a fulfilling one. Project managers handle a wide variety of efforts related to a project’s successful delivery. But what exactly do they […]

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Planning a Vacation? Avoid Feeling Overwhelmed When You Return to Work

by The Burns & McDonnell Careers Team July 6, 2015

You’ve planned for months, packed for days and now you’re ready for your vacation. Time away from work and other responsibilities will be glorious! What’s not so magnificent? The stress you feel when catching up on work after a vacation spent sitting on the beach or sliding down the slopes. Retreats are meant for relaxing, […]

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A Day in the Life: How Recruiters Use Social Media

by Mike Myers July 1, 2015

Social media and recruiting — yep, I’m at it again. I recently wrote about why social media should be a part of your job search strategy, detailing how recruiters rely on social media to find, research and hire candidates. Social media is an integral part of a recruiter’s workday, but what does that use actually […]

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