Women In Architecture: My first experience

My second encounter with an architect was a female architect who I was referred to for an internship. My first was a non-professional meeting with a pastor of the church my family attended, who owned an architecture and construction firm. That meeting, non-professional as it was, did not give me as much hope as I had imagined, for my future as an architect. I had imagined that I would be praised and given lots of encouragement for pursuing a field where there were (and still are) so few practicing female architects. In other words I did not appreciate the reality check I received as a passionate, ready-to-conquer-the-world teenager. Strangely enough, this architect was also the first person to tell me about Structural Engineering as a major and a career, but that’s a story for another day.

The summer after my first year at the University I visited the well-known construction firms in my city to see if they needed an intern in their office. At that time in Nigeria, architects were not permitted to advertise, except through trade literature, or on the project billboard at a construction site. So one had to know someone, who knew someone, who knew… catch my drift? Anyway after spending a few weeks traversing the city getting rejected at the big multinational construction companies, a family friend sent me with an introductory letter to the architect who designed their home. At that time I had never met a female architect, much less one who was the Principal of her own office with several architects and draftsmen working under her so I was very impressed.

After producing the note and getting a look-over from the Principal, (I was quite intimidated by her very office and busy presence) she sent me off to the Associate Principal who interviewed me. I was asked a series of questions on what I had studied in school, given more information on the firm and the requirements of an intern, and was immediately put to work. And that was the beginning of my adventure, working in architecture. I went on to work for her firm all through school, and she hired me as soon as I graduated. Looking back, I know she gave me a chance because we share the same gender; but I also saw her commitment to helping women in the profession through her position in the NIA (Nigerian Institute of Architects), and the women architects she employed.


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