Breaking Biases and Designing Legacies: Celebrating Women at IBI Group
One of the core values that help shape our direction and inform decisions throughout the firm is integrity. This means we go the extra mile to ensure that our celebration of women does not end after International Women’s Day. In an industry where, in the U.S. alone, over 70 per cent of the professionals identify as male, we are dedicated to amplifying the voices of women in leadership roles and inspiring the next generation of thought leaders.
In celebration of this year’s International Women’s Day theme, we’re highlighting recent initiatives where women were able to #BreakTheBias at IBI Group.
Cultivating an Empowering, Professional Environment
Although the number of women entering the AEC industry continues to grow, it is still common for women to be underrepresented in the project teams they’re a part of. Director, Sr. Practice Lead, Architecture, Lisa D’Abbondanza, leads our Toronto transit architecture team, where more than 50 per cent of her team is comprised of women. She shares how her professional experiences shaped how she manages her female-dominant team.
“When I decided to become an architect, I was told, ‘you can’t be an architect. No one will listen to you because you are a girl’ I didn’t understand what I was being told but it sounded preposterous to me. Years later, I realized they were trying to protect me from future hardship.
Fortunately, throughout my professional career, I’ve had many mentors, both male and female, who saw my talent and my drive, irrespective of my gender, and trusted me enough to share their wisdom. From them, I was able to learn and excel. Now that I lead my own projects and project teams, I approach both with the same lens.”
Designing Legacies: Past, Present, and Future
Studio Associate Director, Architect, Wendy Yeung, was a part of the team, comprised almost entirely of women, who designed the Rosalind Franklin Institute in Oxfordshire, UK. Wendy recounts how her team was able to empower one another, while restoring the legacy of Rosalind Franklin; paving the way for future women in STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, Mathematics).
“It has been a great honour to have worked on such an amazing project with many talented people to bring about the realisation of an exemplary scientific facility named for Dr. Rosalind Franklin, an outstanding research chemist. Her fundamental scientific contribution to the discovery of DNA’s molecular structure went unrecognised, unlike her fellow male scientists James Watson, Francis Crick and Maurice Wilkins who were awarded the 1962 Nobel Prize.
The fact that many of the team members behind the project were female is a fitting tribute to Dr. Franklin herself and proves that both men and women can achieve great things.”
Guiding a New Generation
To celebrate and amplify leading voices within our firm, we’re spotlighting female leaders who have shared their experience working in a gender-inclusive environment, and words of encouragement to the next generation of professionals.
Chief Operations Director, Audrey Jacob, shares her insight on the recent developments IBI has made to ensure gender inclusivity.
“In the context of gender diversity, change starts at the top. With enhanced awareness and education as well as the sharing of experiences, IBI Group’s senior leadership is actioning change.
In 2021, we launched an active Diversity, Inclusion & Belonging effort. We also delivered unconscious bias training to senior leadership, established an Inclusion Council, have two employee resource groups (ERGs) – The Global Women’s Network and JEDI, one emerging ERG – LGBTQ, and we undertook a diversity census. This is just the beginning!”
Associate, Manager, Architecture, Gaby Harris, further expresses how The Global Women’s Network has acted as a pillar of support in her professional career.
“The GWN specifically has been a source of support and confidence building in two ways. Monthly meetings provide a platform for exploration of meaningful topics, allowing members to identify, relate, vent and generally discuss collective challenges.
The network aspect has gained traction in developing a support system; company-wide connections are being made regardless of status, location, and profession. Boundaries have been broken and we are building our professional village.
Through acknowledgement, advocacy, and recognition, the forum celebrates gender inclusivity and encourages professional growth.”
Director, Operations USA, Susan Christensen, provided a key piece of advice to the next generation of women in the industry.
“Always ‘lean in’. Be an active participant in every training, meeting, and other opportunities as they arrive. Ask to be involved in projects even though you might not have an active role in that project. Listen to how and what’s being presented. Getting exposure to different work groups is invaluable and will give you a better understanding of how things work.”
Associate Director, Practice Lead, Architecture, Ana-Francisca de la Mora C., shares how a gender-inclusive environment has shaped her professional experience.
“I don’t have to second-guess if the response to a situation is based on other external factors besides my professional performance. It gives everyone confidence that we are all acknowledged based on our capacity and potential. An environment that values gender inclusivity allows me to be exposed to innovative ideas that push me to grow and think more creatively.”
Global Director, Human Resources, Katrina Stevens, shares a personal anecdote to encourage women to disregard the belief that they need to work harder than their male peers to be successful.
“Early in my career, I was working at a male-dominated company, and I witnessed my female boss unwittingly drive herself physically and mentally into the ground. It came to such a head that she was hospitalized for weeks. Glorifying the idea that she had to work longer, be better and achieve more than all her male counterparts led to this tragic outcome. From that day on, I vowed to manage expectations and not allow the idea that because of my gender I had to be more, I had to be perfect. Since that time many decades ago, communicating up and being properly rested had enabled my own and my team’s success.”
We’re grateful for the myriad of female voices we’re able to amplify and celebrate at IBI Group. We strive to continuously evolve and break gender biases within the industry.