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There has been much discussion raised about "Why are women leaving Architecture? and more broadly, Why is the profession losing key talent?"  Both women and men practitioners are disillusioned by the myth of work/life balance: Women are grappling with "have it all" expectations of juggling family time with the demands of full-time work.  Men are struggling to support their families solely on an architect's salary and fall back on asking spouses to maintain their jobs. The lack of affordable childcare and high cost of living only magnifies the challenges.  How did we end up in this modern family dilemma? What can we do to improve the situation?

An Archimom's Everyday Moments of Truth: Deepika Padam, AIA





I can comfortably say that I have seen all sides of the profession. I had worked with firms large and small before I started my sole-practice, while teaching design studio at an architecture school. Now I am in the Public sector working for a client group. Throughout my career, I have volunteered for groups I strongly believe in, AIA is one of them. I am an #archimom of only 8 months. I may not have many pointers from a mom’s perspective, but definitely a few from a female architect’s perspective.

Something I’m pretty sure I share with the other #Archimoms out there: Lack of time. So I’ll get right to it! My typical day right now starts with feeding, changing, and handing over my baby to the nanny before I rush to catch the train for my hour and a half commute. I like to read or catch up on social media before I get to work. Psst… Occasionally I knit on the train! I never take private calls during work hours unless it is an urgent matter. At the end of the day I rush home to feed, change, and get my baby to bed. I think the schedule will remain this way until my son is a few years old. After taxes and nanny income, I barely see much money from my salary. But I must work because the longer I don’t work, the harder it will be to get back to work. That’s the catch 22 of this profession.

My moments of truth:

  • Don’t doubt yourself. You can handle more than you imagine. The torturous years of architecture school followed by long hours at work are a great preparation for anything you might want to do in the future. If I hadn’t got licensed early in my career, I wouldn’t have had the freedom, ability, and confidence to open my business when I needed to. So get that license quickly and believe in yourself.
  • Volunteer. If I hadn’t been engaged in AIA as deeply as I have been, I wouldn’t have had the opportunities I’ve had over the years. I have got jobs through AIA connections, but more importantly, being a volunteer has built me into a confident speaker and presenter. It’s a great way of honing in on those soft skills that are essential for success in architecture. Volunteering in local communities takes you a step further into serving. It’s not all about what you can get out of something; it’s also about what you can give to others. Being President of a local AIA and USGBC chapters hasn’t proven to be as fulfilling to me as mentoring young professionals.
  • Celebrate your successes. But then aim higher. You always need to look forward to something. Don’t forget your dreams and keep working on them. Nobody is going to bring the fruits to you in a silver platter; you need to work hard for them. And when you do achieve your dreams, thank the people who helped you and help others in return.
  • If you are a woman, of color, and of a foreign nationality with an accent, you are not alone. When you fail at something, it’s probably not because of those reasons. So stop feeling like you are being discriminated against. Discrimination happens to people for a variety of reasons, with no exceptions. Better to have a positive outlook and move on. You deserve better.
  • If you decide to quit architecture, all the power to you. If you can handle this profession, you can handle anything. Life is unpredictable, and plans are just plans.
  • Working in an architecture firm is not the only way to practice. There are other avenues. Open your eyes to all possibilities. Negotiate your terms; never agree to the first offer. I’ve never accepted a job at the initially offered salary, negotiation is not difficult. But remember, it’s not all about salary. What are your priorities? Speak up.
  • Before you start your business, do your research. A lot goes into it. The first step is talk to someone who has succeeded or failed at it.
  • You can have a life outside of architecture. You just need to prioritize it. I refuse to work more than 40 hours a week. The entire profession needs to. The day will come when you will burn out. So take that lunch break, and go home at 5. Because work never ends, but your life will end someday. That’s guaranteed.
  • A woman can be an architect, and still manage to be a mother. Or whatever your other desires for a fulfilled life are. You CAN have it all. Make sure to have time for yourself. If you are serene inside, those who matter the most will cherish you more.
  • If you are not happy at work, don’t feel obligated to stay. Don’t settle for anything less than what you deserve. Fight your own battles and build a support network. Start looking and find another opportunity.
  • It is impossible for me to do it all by myself. I wouldn’t be able to be an #archimom without my husband being an #archidad! We take turns all the time in taking care of our infant baby. And we are both sleep deprived! Still trying to figure out the parenting secrets.

Deepika Padam, AIA, LEED AP BD+C, GGP


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