Most of my friends and acquaintances know that along with all aspects of building design and construction, I love the domestic arts…..from cooking and entertaining to creating sculptural handbags and clothing to creating a flower garden with all the native plants of Colorado and compatible regions of the world to sketching. Since cooking and entertaining is listed first, I will just tell you that I love to cook. It’s another palette in the tool box of creativity. The ingredients that go into culinary concoctions are like the pencils, pens, paint tubes, rolls of trace, etc. preset in other parts of my world. Cooking for people and having them all around the table laughing, discussing concepts and ideas, telling stories and experiences, and enjoying great food together, are some of my favorite times in my youth and now. The table is a place where the head is responsible for ensuring the comfort and hospitality of the folks surrounding it.
As an Executive Co-chair for Women in Design-Denver, it’s important for me to invite you all to the table of WiD-Denver. I recently attended the USGBC Cascadia Region Living Futures unConference in Portland, Oregon, which highlighted why an affirmative RSVP is required. The theme of the event was “Women Reshaping the World” and demonstrated through speakers and activities that women have an important role at the table of building design and construction as well as the political scene. And it’s important for the health of not just our families but our societies and our planet.
Of the many quotes that I jotted in my notebook, the one that stands out is from a man….Jason F. McLennan, CEO, International Living Future Institute….and it is why I believe Women in Design-Denver continues to be important and valid. Women need to be a part of the conversation in equal numbers to men. AND it is not to the detriment or removal of men. I would never tell my husband that his voice in the practice of architecture is not required because he is a man. We need him and all his passion to be at the table as well. It is why I married him. Why do we need everyone? Because we need a mix of people in equal numbers from gender to ethnicity to be present at the table and making decisions and adding their voice so that their voices are heard.
There is research that tells us women think and work differently from their male counterparts. It is important for them to be present in all fields in equal numbers to men. When their voices only account for 3% of the principals in American architecture firms, their thoughts are crowded out. It is to our detriment that in most of the professions in building design and construction the numbers of women in the trenches but especially at the top are extremely limited. It is a disappointing statistic that in architecture, for more than 20 years the numbers of women graduating has been 40% – 50% of their classes; but of this huge group of women the number choosing it as a lifelong practice is disappointing, at best. It is worse for the engineering fields partially because there are fewer women graduating from them.
I do not claim to be an expert at solving the issue of unequal voices and how to create more equity for all in the world but I know that Women in Design-Denver and its sister organizations around the country, and hopefully world, have a role to play. The encouragement to follow the path of your passions can be found through the positive encounters we offer. To create a more sustainable organization and world, we need all the voices at the table. WiD is one of the voices that can be heard. Creating the opportunities for women’s voices to be heard is what we do best. I hope men and women alike will join us to create an equitable and long lasting future.
Thank you for coming to the table. I hope you enjoy the fare.
Written by Cheryl Bicknell, Executive Co-Chair