Next up in our International Women’s Day series, we have Keith Houchin, Vice President & Associate Principal
Who are the women who inspire you?
My daily inspiration is my girlfriend and partner, who’s managed to pivot from a career in education administration into tech and has to ascend the technical learning curve associated with such a move. It’s been enlightening to hear about the challenges within her industry and how they may or may not compare to Architecture. She’s been a great sounding board on issues of diversity and inclusion and has taught me to embrace empathy more in a leadership role.
Architecturally, I have a lot of respect and admiration for Jeanne Gang (Studio Gang) and Elizabeth Diller (Diller Scofidio + Renfro). Both of their work can be very cutting edge and academic, yet they still manage to build a lot of it which is an impressive feat.
What does it mean to you, and the industry as a whole, to have more women leadership?
Good design, or business for that matter, comes from questioning the status quo, challenging industry norms, and the only way to do that is by having a diverse set of perspectives within the team. Having more women in leadership provides that diversity beyond a project level to a more strategic level. Additionally, when women take on leadership positions within a business, it helps provide a role model for other women to strive to be as they progress through their careers. Architecture is male-dominated and having representation at the top helps empower our rising stars that they will be able to take on those leadership roles in the future.
How, as a man, can you help break down any barriers facing women in the workplace?
Ensuring that our team’s voices are heard and that they can take ownership of whatever aspect of the practice they are focused on. It’s important to establish an individual’s credibility with their direct communication with clients, consultants, and team members, and encouraging them to take on those roles establishes their voice within the process. Supporting a team member’s voice from a leadership position is key and, in the end, helps empower them to take on more of the process and grow along the way.