Professional Women in Building: Architecture & Design

In our continuing series featuring occupations for professional women in building, we take a look at architecture and design careers.

Professional Women in Building: Architecture & Design

In our continuing series featuring occupations for professional women in building, we take a look at architecture and design careers, which include architects, architectural designers, interior designers, furniture designers, landscape architects, and urban planners.

Like many female architects, Megan Chalmers, an architect and certified Passive House designer in Vancouver, BC, was told early on that she didn’t look like an architect.I’ve invested in a lot of black turtlenecks (and even one or two navy checked shirts!) since then,” she shares, “but it’s still easy to feel self-conscious when you are the only woman in a meeting. It’s a good reminder that it takes more than a great pair of glasses to make an architect. I decided to challenge public perception of what an architect looks like, and I challenge myself today to look past my own preconceptions.”

For professional women in building, representation in the architecture and design field is growing. Although white males still make up nearly 70% of U.S. architects and architectural designers, according to the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB), two in five newly licensed architects are women. And, for the last five years, women have consistently earned licensure faster than their male counterparts. In 2023, it was a full year quicker.

Recognition for women architects’ work is growing, too. Here are a few notable projects led by women that were featured in a recent article from the American Institute of Architects:

  • NXTHVN – Deborah Berke, FAIA, TenBerke. NXTHVN is a 40,000-square-foot former ice cream factory transformed into a nonprofit arts incubator in New Haven, Conn. Berke, the founding principal and owner of TenBerke, is the first female dean of the Yale School of Architecture.
  • The Alice at Goodman Theatre – Chris-Annmarie Spencer, AIA, Wheeler-Kearns Architects. The adaptive reuse project connected two existing building to create a new space for the theatre’s Center for Education and Engagement and includes STEM learning labs, an audition studio, support spaces, and more. Spencer is a firm principal at Chicago-based Wheeler Kearns Architects.
  • Adams Street Library – Amale Andraos, WORKac. Andraos’ design for Brooklyn’s Adams Street Library transformed a former torpedo factory into a youth centered space with a bright tangerine, beige and white color scheme and exposed brick and beams. Andraos is the first female dean of Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Design.

Why choose a career in architecture and design?
The architecture and design field combines artistic vision, technical expertise, and problem-solving skills to create spaces that are functional and can reflect aesthetic and cultural values. For some professional women in building like Brenda Trejo, that ability to use creativity to make something tangible is what makes a career in architecture and design fulfilling.

Trejo is the 2024-2025 President of the NAWIC Silicon Valley chapter and a previous NAWIC Best Person for the Job. She shares, “I love how I am able to make someone’s vision come to life, and I can drive by homes and proudly say, ‘I designed that!’” An architectural designer, Trejo worked for Firestone Designs for almost a decade before founding her own firm, A & B Design in Toluca Lake, California. Her projects include single and multi-family residences, HOA communities, light commercial buildings, remodels, and landscape designs. Trejo especially likes to design homes like this one at 29757 Mulholland Hwy., Ahoura Hills, CA 91301.

Supporting professional women in building
NAWIC members, more than 5,700 in 118 chapters across the US, can be found in the field or in the office and at all levels of experience. Women in the construction industry join NAWIC for support, networking, mentorship, leadership training, and construction education.

Contact a chapter near you to learn more.