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Helen Herrick: A Spotlight on Women in the AEC Industry

March is Women’s History Month and we wanted to take the time to spotlight some women in the AEC industry. Building Enclosure was joined by a handful of leading AEC industry females to speak on issues women have faced in the construction fields and how the younger generation can continue to break down barriers. Read on to hear what some of their biggest hurtles have been. We look forward to seeing what the future of architecture looks like with these women at the helm.

HELEN HERRICK, AIA Studio Director, MBH Architects—New York In my twenties I was often the only woman at the table. I had a great role model in a somewhat eccentric and self-assured University of Washington Architecture professor named Astra Zarina. She encouraged all the women in our class to lead, not take the easy road, and push for our ideas. I’ve also had the benefit of supportive managers (both men and women) throughout my career. I was recently on a jobsite where the PM, Superintendent, Construction Manager and Architect were all women. The best part was that it no longer seemed especially noteworthy. We’ve come a long way. Fortunately for me, my only experience with gender discrimination was when I was designing country clubs early in my career. Several of our clients’ club members clearly felt that a woman had no place in designing their hallowed halls. I did not let that deter me; I ended up working on five country club projects for that firm. Go for it and keep curious—great opportunities can present themselves in many different ways. There are so many different roles and opportunities within the industry: firm work, public entities, client side. The buildings and spaces we create are used by everyone so we need an ever-more diverse set of people and ideas contributing to their design and construction. I’m currently working on the first location of a clicks-to-bricks retailer. It’s exciting to explore what physical retail—and commercial spaces in general—require right now. We are very much looking to the future rather than sticking with what has always been done. Architecture is so much deeper than aesthetics. It’s about the journey through the space and the feeling it leaves you with. It is always exciting to work on the first design for a client but it can be equally as interesting to dissect a current design that is no longer working and to adapt it to current user preferences and needs. Read the full list of featured women on Building Enclosure