We Need More Women Bosses

April 3, 2018

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We Need More Women Bosses

By Catherine Lorentz, AIA


I’m an architect and love saying that.  I love what I do for a living, love my career and my profession.  Recently, I was asked to could contribute to the conversation by sharing my experiences as a woman in the world of the #MeToo movement.


I graduated from The Cooper Union way back in 1978.  One of the first things I remember was how few women there were in the architecture program.  Not just a few women students, but also lacking a single female professor or teacher’s aide.  During our third year, the dean of architecture pulled us all together and told us he was getting nasty letters from those “women’s libbers” and so had to adjust the gender ratio of his staff. He then proceeded to introduce us to two part-time, female architect faculty.


During one of our final presentations, we all pinned our work on the wall for our professor to critique.  He walked around with his hands behind his back, mumbled a few words and then announced that he would give us our grades down at the corner bar, which turned out to be a strip club.  I waited to find my grade posted at his office.


Newly-graduated, I entered the job market with all the high hopes of the young and naive.  Searching for a job in an architect’s office while lacking any real or practical experience in the field, my first interview went fairly well.  It was a mid-size firm with a receptionist out front, drafting area in the middle, and the boss’s office to the side.  The boss told me I would have to answer the phones when the receptionist was out as it sounded better to be greeted by a female voice.  Additionally, there was no women’s restroom in the office or drafting area.  I had to go down the hall and use the public washroom.  The receptionist was allowed to use the boss’s private washroom.


At another employer’s office, any time I passed the boss’s desk, he would grab my behind.  When I asked him to stop he boldly asked, ‘What are you going to do about it?’.  One of the ways you progress in business is to be out and about, going to public events, parties, and openings.  These were always a challenge as, after a few drinks, the boss’s hands were all over the place.


While working for another firm, I was invited to visit a millwork factory out of state.  I flew into Toronto with two representatives of the construction company and the sales rep.  Our luggage was dropped off at the hotel and we headed to the factory.  A private dinner was served after the tour and then it was time for the real fun.  We were all going to the vendor’s private club, which included cigars, rare wine and lots of lovely ladies.  I was dropped off at the hotel first.


I’m sure many women can relate to the guy who tries to kiss you instead of shaking your hand, Yuck!  Or the time I’m in the largest kick-off meeting of my life (the only female) and the contractor asks me to get coffee.  Or when I walk the job site and all the gang boxes are open with pictures of naked women doing vile acts pasted all over for me to see.


The stories are endless as I’ve worked in architecture around and for men my whole life.  But most of these acts of discrimination and harassment wouldn’t even be happening if there were more women as bosses.  I’m a boss now and I hope that more women can be too.


Author’s Bio:

Catherine Lorentz, AIA, is the principal of her firm, C. A. Lorentz, Architect.  The firm specializes in unique and atypical residential and small business projects while addressing the environmental challenges of projects on or near the water. 


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