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Supporting Women on their Path to Licensure - Panel Discussion

This week, WIA hosted a panel discussion event for budding women architects. The women on the panel talked on a range of topics including gender barriers and racial exclusion, as well as words of encouragement and tips for getting licensed in architecture as a woman.

The moderator of the discussion was Maria Walker. She is a member of the AIA and is currently employed at Alto Design. She attended Berea College in Kentucky, for free! After graduation, Maria went on to Michigan University to obtain her master’s degree. Maria talked about how grateful she was to be able to attend liberal arts schools where all students were viewed as equal. Maria has had a lot of experience in the architecture field with 10 years doing multi-family housing but has since moved on to working with custom, residential housing.

Diana Anderson is currently a Building Plans Examiner for the City of Cincinnati but had previously worked as an architect at Professional Design Associates. Diana was born in South Korea but grew up in the Cleveland area. She moved to Cincinnati to attend the University of Cincinnati DAAP program. Diana talked about the difficulty she faced as an Asian-American woman navigating the field of architecture. She also discussed the importance of finding mentorship as a young architect and affirming young professionals as a mentor.

Stefani Danes is a member of the AIA and is currently teaching at Carnegie Mellon. Stefani was one of the first women to be accepted into Princeton University’s architecture program and was one of only a few women in her graduating class. It wasn’t until she attended Yale for graduate school that she started seeing more and more women studying and teaching architecture. Right out of college, Stefani started her own firm that focused on working with nonprofits and acted as Principal for 14 years. After that, she took another Principal position at a different firm where her focus was affordable housing. Stefani discussed the mentality she had as a young female architect, the mindset that nothing was going to phase her. Now as a professor, she works to harbor determination in her students to help them build resilience.

Lisa Garcia is an architectural designer for Chaatrik Architecture. She earned her bachelor's degree in architecture from the University of Cincinnati in 2022. Being a recent graduate, Lisa talked about her experience in the DAAP program regarding increased gender diversity in the classroom as well as valiant efforts of inclusion for all students. Lisa also discussed how important networking is for young professionals and urged mentors to assist mentees in getting involved in social events.

Darion Ziegler is a member of the AIA and is currently employed at Reztark. She received her undergraduate degree and graduate degree from the University of Cincinnati. Darion obtained her license in architecture in 2019 and began collaborating with Black Spectacles to provide workshops and tutoring to architecture graduates also looking to obtain licensure. Darion is currently the chairholder for AIA Cincinnati’s Women in Architecture and Early Professionals committee which provides resources for recent graduates, professionals working toward licensure. Darion discussed how important it is that we continue to work toward making access to architecture programs more attainable to increase diversity within the field.

Nina Hayutin is one of the Interior Designers at Envisage who attended the event. These are her thoughts on what was discussed from her perspective as a woman who will attend The School of the Art Institute of Chicago in their Master of Architecture program this fall:

As a woman at the beginning of my architectural career, I attended Supporting Women on their Path to Licensure: A Panel Discussion, presented by AIA Cincinnati’s Women in Architecture and Early Professionals Committees. The panel covered many topics pertaining to their experiences as women working in a male-dominated profession but focused primarily on one statistic: according to the AIA, almost half of architecture students are women, but we only make up 17% of registered architects in the United States.

The panelists each offered their thoughts on the topic. Diana Anderson, a Senior Building Plans Examiner for the City of Cincinnati, felt that better mentorship opportunities would encourage women to climb the ladder. Many women in the room, both on and off the panel, mentioned struggling to find networking opportunities that weren’t a golf outing or a private lunch they had been excluded from. In addition to the lack of networking events that included women, another hurdle some had experienced was male principals “seeing themselves” in younger male designers and feeling more compelled to mentor them than a female designer with the same experience and skill set.

One thing the panel agreed on was how many more female mentors there are in the field now. The most experienced panelist, Stefani Danes, shared her story about having only one female professor (who was just an assistant professor), while younger panelists, Lisa Garcia and Darion Ziegler, recent graduates from the University of Cincinnati’s Architecture program, had experienced a larger split between male and female professors.

While I loved hearing about each panelist’s career path, what resonated with me the most was the feeling of comradery in the room. You could feel how excited everyone was to have a special networking group where they could meet with other women in architecture going through similar experiences. As a young designer, I’m hopeful for my future seeing so many successful women in my field feel so passionate about mentoring the next generation of women architects!


Jan 6, 2020. (n.d.). Women in architecture. The American Institute of Architects.


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