Women In Architecture Silicon Valley

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Women in Architecture Spotlight: Anne Torney

WIA’s Chair, Angshupriya Pathak, AIA, LEED AP BD+C, kicks off our first Woman in Architecture Spotlight with an interview with Anne Torney, AIA, LEED AP BD+C, Partner of Mithun. They cover the important topics of inequity, mentoring, leadership, and advocacy, while also highlighting some of Anne’s latest design work and offering advice for future leaders.

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WIA Administrator Comment
Book Review: What Works for Women at Work

It has been a very long time since I last wrote any type of book report or review, but I have been inspired to do so both by the caliber of the work being done on the topic of gender equity, some of which is made so accessible in What Works for Women at Work, and the wonderful women who make up the AIA Silicon Valley’s Women in Architecture (WIA) committee.

What Works for Women at Work (WWWW) was written by a mother and daughter team and is supported by extensive research and interviews with over 100 highly successful women, including some who they refer to as the Wise Women, a concept that I will return to later.  Joan Williams is a highly accomplished Professor of Law at Hastings College of the Law at Cal and Founding Director of WorkLife Law. Her daughter, Rachel Dempsey, is a writer and attorney. The multi-generational perspectives that the authors provide adds an unexpected depth to the findings.

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‘Coming to America’ : Journey of an Immigrant Architect

This piece was written by Srivarshini Balaji, Associate AIA, LEED Green Associate, about her journey towards becoming a licensed architect as an immigrant in the United States, highlighting the particular challenges she has faced along the way and offering an intimate perspective on how to maintain focus, strength, and a positive perspective while working your way toward your goals

Six years ago, I decided to venture out of India to pursue a Master’s degree in Architecture in the U.S. My primary aim was to expand my horizons by exploring the design strategies and construction techniques used by Architects there. I was especially interested in green architecture and was eager to learn as much as I could. With this goal in mind, I dove head-first into the process of applying to university programs. My first attempt at applying was, unfortunately, crude and naive, with little ground-work on my part. This ultimately resulted in my receiving only one invitation to join a program on which I was initially on the wait-list. Not willing to be hasty, I took a year’s break and made a more concerted effort. I focused on determining what U.S. university programs were looking for in an applicant. I researched prior work done by university alumni and used what I had learned to redo my portfolio; I incorporated better presentation strategies and reworked some of my earlier designs. After all this work, an invitation to enroll in the master’s program in sustainable design at the University of Oregon along with a one-year scholarship was my first taste of success.

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Event Recap - Negotiating Compensation with Confidence


Negotiating Compensation with Confidence” featured two speakers from opposite sides of the table relaying strategies for salary negotiation in a collection of earnest, considered, and open conversations. One year prior, Mani A. Farhadi had negotiated her position as Project Director at Taylor Design, where Laurie Dreyer is the current Director of Development. Each explored and exposed dynamic, behind-the-scenes elements that contribute to negotiation including differences and decisions in career trajectories, business development, and communication modes. By the end, it was evident to participants that salary is more than just a number; it is an expression of complex fiscal, personal, and career considerations at a given moment in one’s life and in the context of socio-economic developments.

Due to uncanny timing, the event coincided with Farhadi’s announcement of her departure from Taylor Design to a position at Stanford University. This led to a particularly unique structure for the presentation, as well as demonstrated to the audience that one must remain professional at all times, regardless of adjustments and transitions in one’s career.

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Event Recap - Meta Mentorship


This is why I love the WIA committee. They host these unassuming, middle-of-the week, 2-hour events and suddenly, unexpectedly, I’ll have a profound revelation that changes my career.  

Whatever the professional equivalent of a religious experience would be… that’s kind of how I think about it. These revelations change my perspective in a deep and meaningful way.

At the Meta Mentorship II event, mentors and their mentees shared how their careers have changed through mentorship.

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Motherhood: The Unexpected Catalyst Revolutionizing the Profession of Architecture

Architecture is fundamentally demanding. Starting as an undergrad, studio culture demands long hours, all-nighters, and often leads to caffeine addiction. The least amount of sleep often equals the most amount of praise and admiration from peers. It earns an unspoken title of the hardest working, most dedicated student, and that implicit sentiment is often translated through to professors and ultimately to grades.

This culture prevails throughout an architect’s career. It’s an ongoing expectation in most firms where I’ve worked. The more famous the head honcho, the greater the expected time commitment.  Employees are expected to skip meals and cancel plans with friends and family to complete a deadline (which were often assigned only hours in advance). Once a superior scolded me for taking a short dinner break at 8:30 before I worked until 2am.

This demanding culture is widespread in architecture. And you know what? This culture is stupid. There, I said it. It’s stupidThis culture sets up women who want to have children, for failure.

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