Shaping the Conversation | Women in Architecture – Austin

If there is one profession I’m intimidated yet utterly respectful & enthusiastic about is the field of architecture. I believe that it is so amazing that everyday, the genius of architects shape our physical environment & the way we live meeting both our functional needs and an outlet for creative expression. states, “At a deeper level, architecture provides an expression of human civilization at a fixed point in time, which endures as a monument for study by future generations.”

I had the pleasure of interviewing Wendy Dunnam Tita, chair of AIA Austin’s newest committee, Women in Architecture regarding the role of women architects in Austin & beyond. Their inaugural three-week event, Shape the Conversation, started February 8th & will continue through March 2nd

The Exhibit on 2nd St. District | Photo Credit: Andrea Calo

The Exhibit on 2nd St. District | Photo Credit: Andrea Calo

1/ What do you think is the importance of addressing gender disparity {if you think there is one} in architecture?

There have been a number of well done, national surveys conducted in the last few years that point to the same conclusions.  The conclusions are not exactly the same for women as minorities.  For women, there is actually a fairly equitable number of women and men graduating from architecture schools.  The disparity occurs in actual licensure, career advancement, and pay equity.  For minorities, the disparity starts earlier, in the lower diversity of students both entering and graduating from architecture schools.

As a profession, we will be made stronger when we address the root sources of these numbers, which include some of the same causes we see in other professions: unintended bias, a profession with a higher ratio of hours in the office, lack of flexibility, plus a high reliance on recent project and technical credentials that make it hard to re-enter after taking time off for children.

The Early Career Leadership Program, currently in development at AIA Austin, is intended to address many of these issues for both women and men.

2/ What would you like to see change in the future?

What I hope happens in our profession is that talent, hard work, creativity and problem solving skills are more equally recognized. Those qualities in women need to be recognized and rewarded, closing the gap in disparities in advancement and compensation between men and women. 

Opening Celebration of Women in Architecture "Shape the Conversation" | Photo Credit: Atelier Wong

Opening Celebration of Women in Architecture “Shape the Conversation” | Photo Credit: Atelier Wong

3/ Who are your inspiration as far as “Women in architecture”?

Everyone involved in the Women in Architecture exhibits and events series in Austin has said that we have been each other’s greatest inspiration.  From the Fellows —  like Heather McKinney, Elizabeth Danze, Emily Little, and Donna Carter who have shared their stories of Women in Architecture in Austin in the early to mid 1980s — to the students, early career women involved, and all of the others in between.  It has been an incredible treat to spend time working side by side, hearing one another’s stories and inspirations.  We feel like we are sharing the work of many hands to raise the boat for everyone.

4/ How do you think Austin architecture is evolving?

Architecture is at a “both/and” point in Austin.  We are so fortunate to have a rich and broad maker culture here that extends way beyond just “making music.”  This allows us to reinforce “place” with an authenticity that tells us where things came from and provide a granular texture that has always been a part of Austin.  At the same time, Austin is very comfortable advancing as a high-tech center, and we are getting new influences every day.  This is allowing us to become more nationally relevant and economically sustainable. 

One thing that is evident from the exhibit is that women are a huge part of this evolution.  The talent in this city is touching all scales and aspects of design from city planning, landscape design, to important buildings and homes, with all types of clients.

I can’t think of a better time to be a part of Austin’s architecture and design community!

Photo Credit: Atelier Wong

Photo Credit: Atelier Wong


Thank you for an insightful Q & A Wendy! The list of events & exhibits are below or check out the link here. Austin, let us support the people shaping our very own world.

Women in Architecture: Shape the Conversation

February 8 Opening Dialog & AIA Austin Reception

Featured Guest Speaker Amale Andraos (Dean of Columbia Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation)

Jessen Auditorium, UT School of Architecture // 5:00PM

Open to the public. 

Women in Architecture: National Outlook, Local Stories Exhibit Opens

Goldsmith Hall, UT School of Architecture // 11:00AM to 6:00PM

Open to the public.

February 9 – Lunchtime Panels and Conversations

March 2 Various Austin Architecture Firms

Open to the public; RSVP and see full list of panels here.

February 10 Women in Architecture: 1850 to the Future Exhibit Opens

249 W. 2nd Street // 11:00AM to 6:00PM

Open to the public.

Women in Architecture: Shaping Austin Exhibit Opens

249 W. 2nd Street // 11:00AM to 6:00PM

Open to the public.

AIA Austin Women in Architecture Opening Party

Featured Guest Speaker Wendy Davis (Former Texas Senator)

Live Music Performance by Sarah Sharp Trio

249 W. 2nd Street // 6:30PM

Open to the public, RSVP to; Press, RSVP to

February 14 AIA Austin Speaker Series Lunch

Featured Guest Speaker Melissa Murphy (Founder and Chief Communication Coach, The Pitch Academy)

Mercury Hall // 11:30AM to 1:00PM

Purchase tickets here.

*15 Students, $30 AIA Austin Members, $40 Non-Members & At Door