AIA NJ Women in Architecture Committee Hosts a Dynamic Conversation featuring Cecilia Coakley

September 29, 2017

freeholder and speaker.JPGArchitects, Associates and Elected Officials Meet to Discuss

Perceptions and Expectations of Leaders




At their annual program, the New Jersey Chapter of the American Institute of Architects Women in Architecture Committee (AIA NJ WIA) Chairwoman and Second Vice President Kim Vierheilig, AIA, and VP of LAN Associates, led a lively Q&A with Senior VP of MWW PR, Cecilia Coakley.



The evening began with an hour of socializing, courtesy of Michael Halebian & Co., offering networking with the likes of Bergen County Freeholder Chairwoman Tracy Silna Zur and AIA NJ President Elect Verity Frizzell, AIA.






Little Ferry Mayor, Mauro D. Raguseo welcomed an audience of over 50 industry professionals to Brix City Brewing, before Kim and Cecilia began their exchange about gender bias in corporate America.




According to Coakley, 37% of Americans view women as not being assertive enough. She believes that women should more clearly convey their expectations to their employer and push for those expectations to be met. Additionally, 45% believe women are better than men at managing people, yet she finds female leaders have a hard time taking appropriate credit for the success under their leadership.

Cecilia reminded the women in the audience to encourage the next generation of women but to also have the conversation with men. “Let’s bring more people into the discussion. We need more diversity to make a change. We need to be candid about it.”




On the subject of work-life balance, Coakley says, “If you don’t change the expectations of flexibility in the workplace, companies are risking the greatest use of their own talent.” She suggests, “You have to fit your work into your life, not your life into your work.”


Cecilia pointed out that women are subjected to unconscious bias, even from peers who claim to support professional equality. Our upbringing sets our minds and we judge and are judged even without realizing. She offers, “In order to drive change and change the perception of women as business leaders, we need to open up the dialogue and have transparent conversations about how we can work together.”




According to AIA NJ President Elect Frizzell, events like these are a high priority to AIA NJ, as equity, diversity, and inclusion are central to the professional mission of the organization. Chairwoman Vierheilig speaks multiple times per year, both to the membership and outside of the organization, on the importance of equality in the workplace, which is especially a priority in a male-dominated industry such as architecture and construction.


About AIA and AIA New Jersey

Founded in 1857, the American Institute of Architects (AIA) is the professional organization that helps architects serve the public’s needs and builds awareness of the role of architects and architecture in American society. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., the 300 plus local chapters represent 89,000licesnsed architects and allied professionals. The organization’s local chapter, AIA New Jersey, has served as the voice of the architectural profession in the Garden State since 1900. Based in Trenton, AIA New Jersey has 2,000 members in six local sections. For more information, please visit



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