The Center for Architecture hosted an inspiring panel discussion on March 2 featuring Women Founders who #BreakTheBias. The panel discussion was moderated by Alexandra Barker, FAIA, who is the Founding Principal of Barker Associates Architecture Office (BAAO). Panelists included Katherine Chia, FAIA, Co-founder and Principal, of Desai Chia Architecture; Nina Kinoti-Metz, LEED AP, Co-founder and Principal, of Studio Parallel Architecture+Design; Anik Pearson, AIA, Founding Principal, of Anik Pearson Architect; and Suchi Reddy, AIA, Founding Principal, of Reddymade Architecture and Design. The event was held in honor of Women’s History Month and featured the 2022 International Women’s Day campaign theme of #BreakTheBias. We learned about the different paths each woman took to founding her architecture firm. We learned that, while there are similar milestones along the way, there is no ‘right way’ to become an entrepreneur. There are many roads to success, and they are not all linear. The panelists discussed practical matters like finding work, the mechanics of starting a practice, and how responsibilities shifted once the business was running. They also spoke about intangible challenges and how they overcame them.

A common challenge was not allowing others’ expectations to dictate one’s career path. From behaving outside of expected ‘traditional’ gender norms, being told that architecture is too hard to do alone, weathering challenging economic conditions, ignoring the myth of “work-life balance,” giving up a promising alternative athletic career, or choosing only to take supportive voices to heart, the panelists encountered and broke through varying degrees of bias. Common threads between these panelists and our moderator include persistence, a willingness to experiment, identifying the network of supportive people, and giving back to the community.

The event was hosted in a hybrid format, with a lively Q&A from both the virtual and in-person audience following our moderated discussion. We are so grateful to our speakers, who continue to demonstrate to the larger community that it is possible to #BreakTheBias in Architecture.