This week I was all set to talk about more concrete examples of using photography as part of your exploration into women’s leadership, but a couple of things happened last week that I want to talk about first.

Back when I was pregnant with my oldest son Liam (now 8), I worked with a group of women in the Women in Architecture Committee (WIA) of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) to try and create a survey to gather data on women in the profession.

The survey never quite got off the ground, but I was thrilled a few years ago to find that a different group in San Francisco DID do a survey in 2014, which they then refined and repeated in 2016. This group is called Equity by Design.

This actually speaks to one of the 5 myths of women’s leadership that I talk about in the series - the myth that if you don’t do it, nobody will. Sometimes you do your best, and it’s not quite the right time and place, but if it’s work that needs to be done, it will find a way to be done.

To see the work being done is quite incredible in and of itself.

And I am now volunteering for the survey design sub-committee for 2018!

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I’ve spent several hours reviewing all the results from the 2014 as well as the 2016 survey (see the key findings article and presentation).

At the same time, also last week, I attended a day-long advanced coaching certification training with Elizabeth Cronise McLaughlin of The Gaia Project for Women’s Leadership and Gaia Project Consulting. This training was around non-gender-specific leadership training and included best practices for developing leadership programs within corporations and organizations.

I am inspired by the work done so far by the EQxD group, frustrated by the challenges that persist in the industry and, as we know, in the workplace in general, and more motivated than ever to work towards change.

Three of the key findings from the Equity by Design survey jumped out at me in particular, and I have summarized them below along with recommendations for action based on my experience combined with The Gaia Project methodology (note that the recommendations are independent of the work that the EQxD group is doing).

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Key finding #1: On average, male respondents’ career perceptions were more positive than those of their female counterparts. (See "Finding the right fit: metrics of success.")

This was true across every metric measured, with a differential of up to 7%, which is not necessarily huge, but still important to look at.

Recommended action: exercise curiosity and compassion. Ask yourself if is this true at your organization or within your division, group or team. And if so why? Reach out to individuals and talk to them. Ask questions. Listen. What are their challenges? What are their goals? Where are they hitting roadblocks? What would make the most difference to them in feeling positioned for success? What would make the most difference to you?

How can you be creative and think out of the box about those solutions? How can you take what you discover to create more equitable and inclusive practices that provide more seats at the table, which in turn results in increased engagement, loyalty, retention, collaboration, and innovation, and, in other words, positively impacts profitability?

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Key finding #2: Having access to career advice from a senior leader in one’s own firm is an important predictor of career success. (See "Who do you ask for professional guidance?”)

This was actually even more true for the women rather than the men who responded to the survey, but men were more likely than women to report making use of such guidance.

Recommended action: how can you foster connections in your group and team so that all not only have access to but form the active relationships with mentors and sponsors that are critical to career success? Mentors can provide guidance, but sponsors can actually make things happen. Both are important, but a formal structure is not necessary - these relationships can be formed and develop organically.

The problem when existing leadership predominantly represents a certain demographic (i.e., usually white and male) is that we tend to gravitate towards those who are most like us. This may lead to the most comfortable outcomes, but not necessarily the best business outcomes.

Be aware of your own conscious and unconscious biases, and be prepared to step out of your comfort zone.

Key finding #3: Work-life considerations factor strongly into career decisions, regardless of identity, with personal setbacks as a result of work more common than professional setbacks as a result of personal considerations. (See “Work-life integration” deep dive.)

In fact, only about 10% of respondents reported working an average of 50 hours or more per week, somewhat surprising given the profession’s reputation for long hours. Survey results indicate that the challenges relate to where and when rather than how many hours are worked, expectations regarding working as much as necessary to meet deadlines, a lack of understanding regarding criteria for performance evaluation, and the absence of meaningful and rewarding work amongst other factors.

Recommended action: focus on results rather than hours worked, and be creative about finding ways to offer flexibility in such a way that improves on rather than negatively impacts those results. Set clear metrics for how performance will be evaluated and be willing to accept new ways of achieving those metrics (just because it’s not how you did things back in the day doesn’t mean it’s not how things can or should be done today). Use growth as the value metric rather than time, and in addition to the bottom line.

Help those you work with to connect their work to the bigger picture and overall mission and values of the project, team, and organization. Understand what they value and help them achieve their goals - once again you will be rewarded with increased engagement, loyalty, retention and improved results.

In closing:

Even though I am no longer working in architecture directly, I am still committed to supporting women and other under-represented groups in the architecture and design profession and beyond, and deploying my women's leadership coaching skills as well as all of my years of experience to this effort.

Please reach out if you'd like to chat about private coaching or bringing me into your company for a workshop or larger leadership initiative.

And next week, we’ll get back to photography as a women’s leadership tool!

Note: photos are from a workshop I gave at the UWS Apple Store, photos by Kelly Bruso Photography