A clutch of inspiring speakers including three of our own partners will host a discussion at Pollard Thomas Edwards to celebrate International Women’s Day (March 8) this year. Kicking off at 4.30pm, our speakers include two teenager sisters - Astrid and Evelyn van Marle – who will discuss their favourite places with partner Sarah Eastham; Nyemu Holness, the Regeneration Manager leading Lambeth Council’s Brixton Rec project on how to shape a career in the built environment, and PTE partner Charina Coronado in conversation with Sarah on her experiences of contemporary architectural practice.
We also wanted to share the answers to some questions that we asked six women at PTE – answering questions on inspiration, changes we’d like to see in our industry, passions and pastimes outside work, best advice and, for light relief, favourite films and books (with Senior Advisor Teresa Borsuk’s answer here, really quite surprising!)
Who or what inspired you to go into your profession?
Alice Mei, HR Manager: It’s no secret that HR chose me, not the other way around.
Kaye Stout, Partner: My parents had their house extended when I was 13. I was obsessed with the drawings and how they could translate into walls and windows. I then watched a documentary about Frank Lloyd Wright on TV and I was hooked!
Cathy Buckley, Associate: I loved the idea of architecture as a profession, for the opportunity to work across so many different disciplines. I qualified thirty years ago and still love what I do and am learning everyday through collaboration with my colleagues, consultants and clients.
Teresa Borsuk, Senior Advisor: At about the age of 8 my parents/family were considering moving house. At that time, estate agents used to send sales’ particulars out on a sheet of A4 paper - I was intrigued by this. My father seeing this, often asked me to join the viewing and my fascination only increased. That was it, at the age of 8, I decided that I’d be an architect... And then of course, there’s also Lego.
Loulou Mattinson, Architectural Assistant: My first experience of architecture came from moving house, scrolling through Rightmove with my mum and then drawing what my ‘dream house’ would be like – in every version there was always a trampoline.
Isabel Hancock, Architect: All the people that told me I was not appropriate candidate due to my mixed science and maths A-levels. This spurred me on to prove them that you need a mixed approach in the industry and that different perspectives only make the industry and what we produce more diverse and interesting.
What’s your favourite part of your job?
AM: The spirit of HR is always about improvement and how to make things better. We are always looking at raising the bar and taking people or processes to the next level.
CB: For the past fifteen years I have worked on many great education buildings at PTE. As a school’s architect we get to work directly with the education client and end users and can make a difference to staff moral and pupil learning through what we design and build.
TB: The idea of starting with nothing but effectively a blank sheet of paper and being able to fill it with what might one day be a great place to live, that others will hopefully enjoy. And as well as that – the fact that no two days of my whole working life have been the same.
LM: As someone relatively new to professional practice, seeing women at senior levels is very motivating and has undoubtedly had an impact on me.
IH: Coming together with a team of different experiences and backgrounds to find a solution. I inherently have a problem-solving personality and the profession allows me to put that into practice on a daily basis.
What change would you most like to see in the industry?
AM: I don’t want to write an essay, so I'll skip this one.
KS: The strained relations between consultants, clients and contractors – even though we’re all trying to get to the same place. I bet if you completely the removed the aspect of money, it would work like a dream!
CB: Over the past three decades I have worked as an Architect, had two children, and managed a home. At times this has been challenging due to the long hours expected in the industry. Many of the women who I qualified with no longer practice as architects, partly due to the pressures of the profession. Things have improved but there is still a way to go.
TB: That all the key players in any project should not be so siloed. My personal experience at eg Angel Waterside where PTE was developer, architect and main contractor was so enlightening, beneficial and rewarding.
What’s your main pastime/passion outside of work?
AM: I always find time to meditate. It helps to clear my mind and focus on the present moment – which gives me a huge productivity boost.
CB: Swimming through the year at the amazing Ladies’ pond on Hampstead Heath through sun snow and rain. Its elemental and utterly necessary in the middle of the stresses and strains of life.
TB: Travel and geography in its broadest sense - physical, social, economic.
Tell us about a woman that inspires you.
AM: Ruth Bader Ginsburg has been a pioneer for gender equality throughout her distinguished career and successfully fought against gender discrimination. She faced many challenges to become a lawyer. In 1956, she was one of only nine women at Harvard Law School (out of 500 students!).
KS: When I was 6 years old, Cindy Breakespeare, Miss Jamaica, was crowned Miss world. For my Jamaican born sister and I, it was the first time we had seen anyone from Jamaica portrayed in a positive public light and the first time we had seen a woman of colour looking like a princess.
CB: My wonderful mum; clever, kind and inspiring.
TB: Hatshepsut and Elizabeth 1st. Actually, all those women who for too long were hidden behind “great” men, the “significant others” such as Camille Claudel, Elizabeth Gray, Aino Aalto, anni Albers, Marion Mahoney Griffin and many, many others, who never really got the recognition they deserved.
LM: Definitely my Mum - watching her navigate her career my whole life and raise two children becomes more impressive to me the older I get. I can only hope to be able to multitask as well as her one day.
IH: Outside of work my current favourite pastime is getting out into nature and finding a landscape that makes me feel like we are part of a much bigger process and our mundane problems are insignificant when looking at the bigger picture of our natural world. As such we should be doing all that we can to protect it in our industry.
What’s your favourite quote/piece of advice?
AM: "Real and enduring change happens one step at a time." Ruth Bader Ginsburg
KS: "Just put one foot in front of the other."
TB: Believe in yourself.
LM: My grandma’s is ‘there’s always a Plan B’, which has proved itself time over to be good advice.
IH: I am continually inspired by my grandmother. Although dementia over the years has taken away parts of her personality she always finds joy in everyday scenarios and never fails to put a smile on people's faces.
What music/film/tv/book do you return to regularly and why?
AM: Invisible Women is indisputably relevant to every person on earth, regardless of who you are, because everybody plays a role in perpetuating or dismantling gender bias.
KS: A Sail Boat in the Moonlight by Billie Holiday: it was one of many songs she wrote herself and absolutely no harm can come to you listening to that song.
CB: The comedy series Black Books is our family go to. We know it word for word, it’s our comfort blanket.
TB: That’s so difficult. I don’t think I really do that, but I have to admit that for some reason I have watched the film, Pretty Woman, more times than I’d really care to admit! Oh dear, that’s not very auspicious, is it?
LM: The architecture related book I always go back to is The Eyes of the Skin, I think because I read it when I first started studying, so it feels significant to how I think about architecture.
IH: Carole King - Tapestry. She wrote this album at the age of 29 and it still is lauded today now she is 80. I was introduced to the album at a young age by my mother, and it was one of my first CDs. I go back to this album often not only for her powerful vocals but her lyrics of female reinvention and the wonderful memories it evokes of seeing her live in the glorious sunshine in Hyde Park with my Mum in 2016 surrounded by mother/daughter duos singing every song together word for word.