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An Equal World is an Enabled World

For International Women’s Day 2020, we asked a handful of JWA’s leading ladies (there are many) to tell us about a mentor or influence that’s shaped their career and thinking. 

We can actively choose to challenge stereotypes, fight bias, broaden perceptions and improve situations. Equality is not a women's issue, it's a business issue. Collectively, we can make change happen. We must work together to create a gender equal world. 

Principal Jane Williams reflects "It’s been an exciting week for women in architecture. First came the news that Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara, co-founders of Grafton Architects, had been awarded the 2020 Pritzker Architecture Prize. Then came a flurry of events for International Women’s Day. I had the pleasure of speaking at the Women in Design and Construction breakfast on Wednesday, where debate on IWA theme #Each for Equal and Collective Individualism fueled a feeling of momentum around change in our profession. There was a tangible sense that gender equity has moved beyond the theoretical and firmly into the daily consciousness of industry leaders.

You know you’ve hit the mark as a speaker when you’re approached by attendees brimming with questions. I spoke to two high school students contemplating careers in design and asked if IWD 2020 was on their school agenda. When they said no, we discussed broaching it with school leaders. It was a perfect example of the way gender equity spans big and small actions that all of us can play a part in." 

Maya Borjesson is Project Architect for Geelong College Junior School and Wonthaggi Farmhouse. She’s also Diversity Co-ordinator for Women in Design & Construction. On Thursday morning (March 5), Maya is championing WIDAC’s ‘International Women’s Day Breakfast’ Event with panellist and JWA Principal Jane Williams. 

"Kazuyo Sejima, Founding Partner of SANAA is a powerful inspiration for me. Sejima’s ethereal, highly resolved architecture has become synonymous with contemporary Japanese architecture. In 2010 SANAA was awarded the highest honour in architecture, the Pritzker Prize, which is an exceptional feat for any architect. Sejima is a pioneer. When she won the Pritzker, she was the second woman to do so in the award's 31-year history."

Megan Darbyshire is Project Architect for Bendigo Law Courts. Leading the stakeholder engagement process, she spoke with over 100 stakeholders to develop the return brief for what will be a Court of the future.  

"I’ve had many strong and driven mentors. I met Felicity Douglas early in my architecture career and without knowing it she set me on a different path. Felicity always demonstrated calmness. She has an innate ability to lead clearly and deliberately under trying circumstances, but she also took the time to nurture me through various roles. She had confidence in my ability that I did not see in myself. She consistently supported and pushed me to challenge my own career ‘time frames’."

Georgie Tiernan joined JWA last year after a 5-year stint at SHoP Architects in NYC. Currently the design leader on CRA63, the redevelopment of a prominent CBD site in Canberra, she played a key role in our proposal for a high-profile Sydney design competition last year.

"One of the many inspirational people I’ve had the privilege of working with is Kate Orff from Scape Studios in New York. Kate’s work in creating regenerative living infrastructure uses the power of design to drive positive change in tackling climate change and loss of biodiversity in our cities. I find inspiration in her advocation for a design response that results in a more synthesised urban ecology."

Meron Tierney is Project Architect on Ballarat Gov Hub, now in construction. A passionate advocate for sustainability, she co-leads our ESD team which is currently working towards making JWA carbon neutral in keeping with our commitment to the Architects Declare initiative.      

"I have always been inspired by Spanish architect & educator Carme Pinós.  Her work is not only well considered but demonstrates a firm commitment to sustainability and community. At a time marked by climate extremes, her dedication to the communities with whom she engages is vital & important.  Carme’s residence at University of California, Berkeley’s College of Environmental Design (CED) investigates a new architectural intervention in Burkina Faso, developing ways to implement the potential for low-cost, sustainable thermal insulation derived from peanuts grown in the region almost exclusively by women!"

Alexandra Morrison is working on Northumberland St, a commercial tower and companion building soon to become the new headquarters for Aesop. She’s also Project Architect on the Lord Somers Camp and Power House redevelopment on Albert Park Lake. The revitalised precinct will support the NFP’s work to enhance social cohesion with at risk youth and the disability sector.

"During my time studying at Deakin University, Dr Mirjana Lozanovska became a great mentor. An influential and thought-provoking teacher, her expectations - to think analytically, evaluate and synthesize your ideas - were known to either make or break you as a student. Her urban scale, community-based and globally focused design studios have helped me understand architecture’s role in responding to contemporary issues such as societal shifts, global migration and threatened ecosystems."

Stephanie Pahnis is a Graduate of Architecture working on Bendigo Law Courts. She is also the Co-Founding Editor at Caliper Journal, an independent architecture publication based in Melbourne. First published by students in 2017, Caliper was born from the desire to have messier and more meaningful discussions about architecture and its place in the world.

"Architecture has long been a male-dominated profession. IWD is a reminder of how much we’ve achieved but also the journey to come in realising genuine equality. When I think of my biggest influence, I instantly think of the immediate women I practice with every day: my peers, colleagues and teachers. There’s such a rich group of emerging female architects in Melbourne and it excites me that these future leaders will determine how the profession is defined." 

Kendal Mountfort is JWA’s Marketing Coordinator. She works across EOIs, RFTs and communications across the Sydney and Melbourne studios. Originally from Tauranga, New Zealand, she moved to Melbourne last year and brings a special Kiwi sensibility to her work.

"I take a lot of inspiration from New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. I was still living in NZ when she was elected, but now that I’m in Australia I have come to admire her standing both on the New Zealand and world stages. At a time when so many political leaders lack qualities critical to their positions such as clear, honest communication, sincerity, humility – Jacinda brings an integrity and compassion to her role that sets her apart. In the midst of so much chaos, change and short-term thinking in the world, I only wish there were more leaders like Jacinda."

Jeanné Skelin is Practice Coordinator for the over 85 staff that make up the Melbourne studio. Her role spans everything from planning Bruny Making Weekends to the recruitment and induction of new staff. She played a key role in recruiting our Sydney team last year. 

"Two people who have been instrumental to my career growth are JWA Principals Jane Williams and Richard Sucksmith. I first worked with Jane at BVN, where she constantly expanded my responsibilities and prompted me to challenge myself. Practice Principal Richard Sucksmith encouraged me to take on my current role and has guided me through a steep learning curve over the past 10 months. Both observed potential in me that I wasn’t aware of and gave me the gentle nudge I needed to move forward. My husband has also been a great mentor."

Chloe Lanser is working across several projects in Burnie and Launceston, part of the University of Tasmania’s $300M Northern Transformation Project. She recently played a key role on the Royal Botanic Gardens Nature and Science Precinct.

I’ve been inspired by many pioneering women architects: Lina Bo Bardi, Ray Eames, Eileen Grey, Charlotte Perriand, Marilyn Mahoney Griffin, Aino Alto. These women succeeded in a time dominated by male architects and produced revolutionary work that also promoted the social and cultural potential of design. The debate around gender equity has taken giant steps but continues in design and society at large. I take encouragement and duty from the lives of these pioneers, to continue in joy and excitement for the future as they did.

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