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Six Women Who Make a Difference

Does preservation architecture and traditional building design attract a disproportionate number of female professionals?

According to the U.S. Census, women outnumber men. In the American Community Survey, 5-Year Estimates, the Census says there are 164.8 million women of all ages and 159.9 million men.

The U.S. Census also tells us that the percentage of women 25 and older with a bachelor’s degree is 20.7% while for men it is 19.9%. Women’s median earnings, as a percentage of men’s median earnings, is 80.8%.

The National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB) counts 121,997 licensed architects in the U.S., up 5% since 2019, despite covid-closures of licensing test centers. Reciprocal state licenses (for out of state architects) are also up to 140,342, an increase of 2% since 2019. Seventeen percent of licensed architects are women. Only 17%?

This number surprised me, given how many women architects there are, whose work we publish in TRADITIONAL BUILDING and whose seminars we attend at the Traditional Building Conferences. Does preservation architecture and traditional building design attract a disproportionate number of female professionals? I don’t know the numbers or the percentage, so I flipped through my mental rolodex to find the movers and shakers in our traditional building world who happen to be female. I picked six to profile here. 

Left: Constance Lai, Right: Lori Garrett

There is Constance Lai, FAIA, LEED AP, BD+C of Grunley Construction, Manager of Preservation Services. Over her eighteen-year career Constance has worked on iconic Federal projects like the Washington Monument, the Executive Office Building, the U.S. Capitol and the Jefferson Memorial.

And Lori Garrett, AIA, LEED,  President of Glave & Holmes Architecture. Lori is the Director of her firm’s Higher Education Studio whose portfolio includes work at the University of Virginia, Christopher Newport University, and the University of Richmond. She founded Richmond Women in Design and was the recipient of AIAs Women in Architecture Athena Leadership Award in 2010.

Left: Taryn Williams, Right: Naomi Doddington

There aren’t too many little girls who tell their parents they want to be a building engineer when they grow up, but Taryn Williams did. Now she inspires other young women to follow her lead. Lead she does, as a Senior Project Manager for Simpson, Gumpertz & Heger, an ENR 500 Engineering firm. In her spare time, she is the President of the Association of Preservation Technology International.

Naomi Doddington, Preservation Project Manager for Consigli Construction came to our attention when she suggested we cover the Menokin preservation case study at our upcoming Traditional Building Conference. Menokin is the remains of a house owned by a signatory of the Declaration of Independence, Francis Lightfoot Lee. Naomi Doddington managed this $7 million project which preserves, using glass, some of the oldest historic fabric in the U S. Before joining Consigli, Namoi was an architect at the National Park Service.

Left: Liz Hallas, Right: Jean Carroon

Liz Hallas, AIA, LEED, AP BD+C of Anderson Hallas Architects has experience with the National Park Service too, having worked on two national park projects which have graced the pages of our magazine: The Sperry Chalet and the Many Hotel in Glacier. Both have won Palladio Awards. Ms. Hallas runs an architecture firm which does everything from courthouses to lighthouses. Her favorite projects enhance communities, like the Breckenridge Community center which transformed a vacant school into a library, gathering space and movie theater. She is the past Chair of Colorado Preservation Inc. and currently serves on the AIA Historic Resources Committee board.

And Jean Carroon, FAIA, LEED Fellow, who has inspired countless young women in her role as Principal of the Preservation Practice at Goody Clancy. An expert in adaptive use, Jean’s projects include the historic St Elizabeth’s campus for the Department of Homeland Security, the State of Vermont offices and the Trinity Church in Boston. She was the President of the Boston Society of Architects in 2019, has authored a book, “Sustainable Preservation: Greening Existing Buildings,” and is the recipient of the Clem Labine Award from TRADITIONAL BUILDING.

If seventeen percent of 121,997 registered architects are women, that’s only 20,739 women architects who are registered, according to NCARB. For the moment, let’s celebrate that it’s not how many, it’s who, as in the accomplished women, cited here.

I’m the brother of six sisters and my mom had a residential design practice. I’ve always taken accomplished women for granted…evidence without further proof or argument needed. But during Women’s History Month, I decided to pause to think about the women in our field, like Constance Lai, Lori Garrett, Taryn Williams, Naomi Doddington, Liz Hallas and Jean Carroon, all trail blazers, and inspiration for others.

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