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AIA Women's Leadership Summit 2013

On October 24-26, 2013, over 200 women leaders gathered together in Phoenix for the third AIA Women’s Leadership Summit. This event, originally developed by the BSA Women Principals Group, has been held biennially since 2009. Many Boston-based leaders were in attendance this year and were involved in its planning.

Inspired by the theme of “Going Beyond,” a diverse and strong array of speakers were grouped by the subthemes of Educate, Practice, Own, Publics and Politics, Propel, Inspire, and Engage. The summit highlighted exceptional leadership and exposed the issues of women’s leadership in a profession where 18% of licensed AIA members are female. Although the summit participants ranged from Principals, Educators, Owners, Designers, Environmentalists, and Innovators, it was wonderful to see how the common thread of leadership and good design could yield a diverse discussion of the gender conversation in architecture and its implications on today’s leadership challenges.

Many speakers touched on the moments that threw them off their intended career path forcing them to reevaluate their priorities and look for new opportunities that eventually led to something greater than originally envisioned. While some called these moments ‘lucky,’ others mentioned that it was often the case that a lot of hard work when into discovering ‘lucky’ opportunities. All agreed that being open to change and its associated risks is integral for innovation.

The strength of the summit was both the many opportunities for networking and the exemplary, diverse work presented. The range of topics and strength of leadership displayed makes it hard to identify just one or two highlights. A lot of discussion was packed into two days reinforcing that the question of gender inequity in the architecture profession is far from answerable. However, in coming together with events like this, women leaders can do what they do best—execute poetic designs,  find consensus, build relationships, and push forward ideas that advance women architects both individually and collectively.


Summit Speakers and Topics

Keynote: Marilyn Jordan Taylor FAIA with introduction from Carol Burns FAIA

Educate Session

  • Kate Schwennsen FAIA, moderator
  • Kim Tanzer FAIA
  • Sharon E. Sutton PhD FAIA
  • Tiffany Lin
  • Janice A. Cervelli

Practice (S/M/L)

  • Cathleen McGuigan, moderator
  • Jill Lerner FAIA
  • Marlene Imizian FAIA
  • Karla Greer AIA
  • Annie Chu AIA


  • Saskia Dennis-van Dijl, moderator
  • Tamela Van Winkle
  • Robin Shaumbach
  • Mary Cox FAIA

Publics and Politics

  • Nancy Levinson


  • Judy Nitsch
  • Constance Adams
  • Erin McConahey
  • Eve Edelstein PhD, Assoc. AIA
  • Patricia Reiter


  • Julie Snow FAIA, moderator
  • Billie Tsien AIA
  • Hsinming Fung AIA


  • Sheila Kennedy AIA, moderator
  • Jinhee Park AIA
  • Johanna Hurme MRAIC
  • Emily Grandstaff-Rice AIA
  • Teresa Rosano AIA

Closing: WLS Goes Beyond

  • Sho-Ping Chin FAIA
  • Heather Taylor AIA

BSA Members at the AIA Women’s Leadership Summit, Phoenix Art Museum; image courtesy Emily Grandstaff-Rice AIA.