Women In Design

| January 28, 2013 | 0 Comments
shavawn coleman, lage design, gensler, mendenhall smith, inside style

Image Courtesy of COLAB Las Vegas

On January 23, 2013, COLAB Las Vegas sponsored a panel discussion, Women In Design. The panelists include:
Beth Campbell, AIA (Principal at Gensler)
Cecilia Schafler (Principal at Lage Design)
Jill Abelman (Owner at Inside Style)
Kirsten Nalley, PE, SE (Principal at Mendenhall Smith)

With Moderator:
Shelley Hutchins (Senior Editor at Hanley Wood)

The panelists were very open and being a woman in design myself, it was very easy to relate to them. The panel discussion was held in a quaint room at the Amanda Harris Contemporary Art Gallery downtown. The room was very intimate, very light and fun atmosphere. The entire discussion was very interactive, and everyone in the room could relate to at least one person on the panel.

How did you find your profession?

The discussion started with how they found their design profession, and the overall answer was as a when they were a child. Beth used to draw the houses she was in as a little girl, and then correct the architecture. Cecilia had always loved the desert and knew as a child this was where she wanted to be.  Kirsten had discovered in high school she was pretty good at drawing, science and math. She also had a little nudge from her dad, who is an engineer as well. Jill found her inspiration on accident. After she designed the interior of her own home, a friend told her she had a real talent; from there she jumped in with both feet to interior design.

Culture of women in design.

The next question discussed the culture of being a woman in a design profession. Being in a male dominated profession in landscape architecture, I was particularly interested in this segment. Cecilia had an issue with one contractor, who told her she should put on an apron and go make some cookies. While most of us would be offended and get upset, Cecilia used humor to get through it. At the end of the job, she actually brought that contractor a box of cookies! Her best advice was to be solution oriented, know your plans and if possible, use humor. It will make the construction process go smoother and you will get a quality project for yourself and the client. Kirsten had a contractor bring her a container of Naked Juice. It took her by surprise, but she got through that job!


Another important issue was mentors and support. Overwhelming, all panelists are for mentoring and helping current students. Cecilia wouldn’t be where she is without the mentor she had in her life. Not only will you teach your students, but in return you will also learn from them. Cecilia has offered to always look over resumes or teach students on her own time to help them progress. Jill learns something from her interns everyday at her office. While she teaches the intern client relations, the intern teaches her a few things on the graphics programs. Just because you have finished school, doesn’t mean you are finished learning!


In closing, their advice:
Kirsten: take your own initiative to learn the skills you need. If you need to learn new software, take the time to teach yourself. Have great partnerships and relationships.

Beth: Slow down. Find out what you are truly passionate about. We spend over 80% of our life working, you should enjoy it.

Cecilia: ‘Ditto!’ The landscape architecture profession is dwindling. Many people who left the profession won’t come back. The architecture firms are starting to hire and get work, so in about 6 months that hopefully means we will have work. In 5 years there will be a shortage of landscape architects. Landscape architects are so diverse, we were taught to do everything but the building footprint. Keep learning all you can. No matter how passionate you are, learn the business side of your profession!

Jill: Keep up on the latest technology, even social media. Be brave. Be persistent.

Leaving this lecture, I felt a little more inspired and a little more confident in my abilities. I have only been in the landscape architecture industry for 6 ½ years, in the grand scheme is a very short time. It is nice to know they have some of the same issues and challenges I have, and they overcame them! I also really liked the fact, that just because they are finished with college, they don’t leave the students and new professionals behind. Right after this lecture, Cecilia offered to help me with anything I may need in order to make me a more successful designer! Seeing these women and their passion reminds me again why I did choose this profession.

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About the Author ()

I have been in the landscape architecture industry since 2006. I have known since I was 15, visiting Boston that I wanted to be in the design industry. My passion is design, design that somehow makes a difference in someone's life. The greatest achievement is seeing a child's eyes light up over the new park or garden you helped design for them! My other passion is photography, I am no where near a professional level, but it's a good excuse to go hiking!

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