By Tammy Stouchko, Principal, SSP Architects
While men in professional fields like architecture are automatically treated with respect it is not the same for women as they are forced to struggle to earn the respect of their colleagues, clients, and contractors. I started my career in interior design, which is dominated by women, but then earned a Masters Degree in Construction Management and a Certificate in Educational Facilities Management, both male dominated. It became apparent early in my career, when presenting to clients while accompanied by a male coworker, the questions from the client were typically directed to him, even though I was presenting.
I learned to deal with this double standard by developing a pragmatic outlook and focus that allowed me to deal quickly and efficiently with complex situations. This led to appropriate advice and correct decisions that earned the respect of clients, contractors, and building officials. Designing and managing architectural projects has required me to be comfortable in not only a board room, but also construction sites and atop a roof. Just as I have learned to dress for the task whether a skirt and heals or jeans and steel toe boots, I look to the future where what sex you are does not matter.
I developed a love for the construction aspect of architecture and as I visited job sites I would hear the comments (“Why is SHE here?”) and see the reactions (shrugs and strange looks) as I walked the site. When I was asked questions and gave clear and concise answers and direction it was clear that I had earned their respect with comments like “Oh good, you’re here, we need you.”
It is important to search out and find a female mentor to assist you in overcoming double standards. I was extremely lucky that SSP Architect’s Senior Principal Jeanne Perantoni is a highly respected leader who mentored me and taught me how to overcome such double standards.
As an owner of SSP Architects, I am committed to lessening and eventually preventing the double standards that I had and still at times am forced to endure. I mentor our female employees to stand up and take control of meetings and redirect questions to themselves. I encourage firms at all levels to take a closer look at their talented and capable women and provide them with the mentorship, encouragement, and advanced learning opportunities they need to accomplish their highest levels. While I am proud that the number of women in the architecture field has tripled in the last 25 years, I will continue to strive for equal treatment for all of us.