Looking Back and Forging a Path Forward: A Recap of the AIA Women’s Leadership Summit Sponsored by LS3P’s Network of Women (N.O.W.) Employee Resource Group The mission of LS3P’s Network of Women is “to support and connect women across LS3P through mentorship, professional development, and advocacy, and to create an equitable, transparent, and inclusive work environment where all team members thrive.” With this mission in mind, The NOW steering committee was proud to sponsor three ladies from three different offices to attend the AIA Women’s Leadership Summit in the Fall of 2022. Emily Kite, Tori Vick, and Claire Schultz represented LS3P at the national conference, and while each of them brought back unique insights and lessons, the importance of mentorship, advocacy, and equity can be traced through each of their reflections. These reflections highlight the importance of supporting and advocating for our team members, our clients, and the next generation. The NOW Steering Committee is thrilled to share the following insights from Emily, Tori, and Claire, and we hope that these thoughts inspire you to ask yourself, “Who am I mentoring?”, “Who am I advocating for?”, and “How do my actions support an equitable work environment?”. The AIA Women’s Leadership Summit will be back this fall in Boston, and we encourage you to consider it for your professional development in 2023. Emily Kite, Senior Project Manager On the Art of Place-Making through a Woman’s Perspective in Architecture After attending the 2022 AIA Women’s Leadership Summit, the way that I understand the importance of ‘place’ is expanding in new ways. Architects create a ‘sense of place’ – we are deeply connected to our communities. We engage in conversations with clients about their visions and our communities look to us for solutions. Our relationships can build multi-disciplinary teams to help address needs for affordable housing, sustainability, better educational environments, and healthcare services for those who are underserved. Many of our education projects include community engagement activities designed to reach the students, teachers, and families that our buildings will serve so that we might hear what is special about their school and their vision for the future. We present our ideas and solicit feedback about the goals and objectives for a project or building. When working with students, we tailor activities to teach students about our process and to help them visualize what their school might look like. The question I keep asking is ‘What if the impact in this engagement is really that I am an architect, and a woman, and maybe young girls can see themselves as architects because I showed up at their school and led a conversation?’ During the conference, the way that I practice architecture and who I am as an architect crashed into each other. It was a recognition that how I show up and engage with young students throughout the course of a project is as ‘place making’ as the physical places and spaces that I create. In the time since I returned from the Women’s Leadership Summit, I have continued to reflect on what it means for me to be an architect, not in the context of the work that I do, but in the context of cultivating a profession where future architects can see themselves belonging. Tori Vick, Emerging Professional On Building Success and Empowering Women in Architecture Through Mentorship “Everyone needs someone in their corner.” This thought was never more important to me than during the AIA Women’s Leadership Summit. Being in the company of women in the design field was invigorating. I sat in on many talks and presentations throughout the conference with my eyes and ears open wide. During almost every session, I heard the same things that boiled down to: “Everyone needs someone in their corner.” Many women shared their experiences and noted that they would not be as strong, as smart, or as far in their career if there wasn’t someone rooting for them. They acknowledged that unfortunately, to get ahead, someone must be at “the table” to advocate for you. Someone must be willing to extend you grace and be there for your every question. After every conference there is an expectation that you reflect and that was all that I did. “Is someone advocating for me?” was a question I had and it concerned me. Through further thought, I realized that while I do not have a formal mentor, I have developed relationships with individuals that got me to where I am today. There are individuals that I can ask all my questions to and that remind me of where I need to go and where I have been. And for that I am beyond grateful for those individuals and the opportunity to go to the Women’s Leadership Summit. Claire Schultz, Project Manager On Paving the Path for Gender Equity in Architecture Attending the Women’s Leadership Summit was an eye-opening experience, particularly in terms of gender equity in the workplace. One of the core messages that stood out to me was the importance of recognizing and addressing unconscious biases that can negatively impact everyone in the office. Several of the speakers, through the sharing of their own stories and experiences, encouraged us to challenge gender stereotypes and to actively seek out opportunities to support and promote other women in our professional networks. For me, this emphasized the importance of consciously and intentionally creating inclusive workplaces where everyone feels valued and respected, regardless of their gender. A few key takeaways stuck with me after the event. First, it’s important to examine our existing policies and practices to identify any barriers that are present because many are unintentional or unrecognized by those making the decisions. Additionally, we can all actively work to support and promote other women in their professional networks by offering mentorship and advocacy opportunities. Lastly, we shouldn’t be afraid to raise awareness by fostering open and honest conversations about the topic. Overall, the event served as a powerful reminder that gender equity is not only a moral imperative but also a critical business imperative that can help our firm to thrive and succeed by making our office a place where all feel welcome and heard. About Emily, Tori, and Claire Emily Kite Senior Project Manager Emily Kite, AIA brings over twenty years of design and leadership experience working at firms in the Asheville area. A graduate of The University of Cincinnati with a Bachelor of Architecture, Emily is highly experienced in designing for early childcare, K-12, and higher education clients. She is an Accredited Learning Environment Planner (ALEP) through the Association of Learning Environments; she is also Chair of the Historic Resources Commission for Asheville and Buncombe County and sits on the property committee for First Presbyterian Church in Asheville. Tori Vick Emerging Professional Tori Vick joined LS3P’s Charleston office in 2021. A dual graduate of NC State University, Tori holds a Bachelor of Architecture and Bachelor of Environmental Design in Architecture. Since joining the firm, Tori has primarily focused on designs for multifamily and hospitality projects. Claire Schultz Associate Principal Claire Schultz specializes in complex designs for large commercial and hospitality clients. A graduate of the University of Tennessee-Knoxville with a Bachelor of Architecture, Claire joined LS3P’s Charlotte office in 2014 and was recognized as a firm Associate Principal in 2021 for her leadership skills and commitment to design excellence. Claire’s notable recent project work includes designs for the AC Marriott South Park, Regency Woods Office Building, and 300 South Tryon high-rise office tower; she is also a LEED GA.