AIA Central New Jersey Hosts a Women in Architecture Panel Discussion

March 2, 2018

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On February 27th, AIA Central New Jersey hosted an event called Women In Architecture: Paths of Opportunity. The roundtable discussion focused on challenges and opportunities for women in architecture, featured six female architects representing various career stages and disciplines.

“We all share a passion to promote opportunity for women,” said panelist Liz Cook about the women participating in the discussion. “Although half of those who graduate with architecture degrees are women, the number who become licensed and stay in the profession is much lower. We need to ask why this is happening, what is missing and how we can be advocates for change.”

WIA Panelists: Karen Nichols, FAIA; Verity Frizzell, FAIA; Martina Decker, AIA; Kirsten Sibilia, AIA; Liz Cook, AIA and Moderator Megan Pritts, Associate AIA. Photo by Ben Walmer, AIA.

Section President Sean Cuddahy, AIA, asked each of the panelists “What was the single most important takeaway for you based on tonight’s discussion?”


Here are the responses:


  • Megan Pritts, Associate AIA, Designer / Project Manager at JZA+D and AIA NJ Regional Associate Director: “Being the youngest on the panel and not having a great deal of experience with public speaking, my biggest takeaway was realizing I could do it. My passion for the topics gave me confidence that I could have an informed dialogue with the panelists. And they immediately made me feel comfortable and welcome. I think it can relate to the discussion about young women finding a voice in their careers and advocating for themselves which resonated with me.”
  • Elizabeth Cook, AIA, VP and Project Principal, HDR: “The audience. I was amazed by the diversity of the audience – their thoughtfulness, their willingness to understand and participate in the discussion, their enthusiasm to change the paradigm.”
  • Martina Decker, AIA, Assistant Professor at NJIT’s College of Architecture and Design, and Director of the Idea Factory: “After this exciting discussion and being surrounded by so many inspiring professionals, I am more than ever reminded of the importance of mentorship. Being advised, counseled or trained by a strong mentor can be so crucial to a successful trajectory. It was such an honor having been invited to this engaging community, that can serve as the platform to forge these relationships.”
  • Verity Frizzell, FAIA, AIA NJ 2018 President, Principal Architect at Feltz & Frizzell Architects: “The thing that resonated most with me was when Joshua Zinder asked how we raise our daughters to be more assertive in asking for what they deserve.  I think part of that is implicit bias where we raise boys to be aggressive and girls to be agreeable, whether we mean to or not.  We need to be more aware of how we talk to our children so their generation has less difficulty with these issues.”
  • Karen Nichols, FAIA, Principal at Michael Graves Architecture and Design, Member of the Advisory Boards of NJIT’s College of Architecture & Design, and Kean University’s Michael Graves College, 2018 Chair of the AIA’s Jury of Fellows: “I came away energized by the shared passion for the profession and genuine interest  — from the men and women in the room – to find strategies for achieving equity. The differences between men and women in the office – like asking for a raise – may seem subtle but are actually powerful examples of level-setting that requires diligent attention. It’s for the good of all of us.”
  • Kirsten Sibilia, Associate AIA, Managing Partner of Dattner Architects, Board Member of the Beverly Willis Architecture Foundation. : “As an industry, our ability to ensure equitable paths of opportunity for women in architecture is in part dependent on raising awareness of unintended bias – and stamping it out. We can do that together, and forums like AIA CNJ’s event are critical to this campaign.”

AIA Central New Jersey is a not-for-profit membership corporation formed in 1930. A section of the American Institute for Architects, it services architects from Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex and Somerset Counties.

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