Celebrating International Women’s Month: Tina Faust

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© Daniel Lee

As a part of our International Women’s Month series, Tina Faust, an associate at our firm, shared some insight into her experience as an Architect. Tina has been with the firm for 9 years and most recently has been working on New College House West, a residence hall for the University of Pennsylvania. This residence hall comes after the team’s first completed project at the University of Pennsylvania, Lauder College House. In addition to her work as an architect, Tina is vocal in the firm’s ongoing conversations about equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI). In this interview, we talk about her passion for EDI, what she sees for the future of the workplace, and the architecture industry.

How have you witnessed the glass ceiling in the industry, either through personal experience or through your network? How can we prevent this?
Absolutely. The glass ceiling is evident from the lack of equal recognition of female architects in the highest awards and prizes in the profession to experiencing unfair allocation of training and resources at other firms I’ve worked at.

I’ve seen folks start their own firm in part to have work-life flexibility, and/or because they’re burned out. I think this is why the research done by Equity by Design is incredibly valuable, to hone-in on the data on where these pinch points and challenges are happening, so that we may begin to address these issues. Companies that garner feedback from their employees will also have a leg up on retaining talented designers.

As a caregiver what barriers have you experienced in the architectural industry? What tools or policies would improve your life and allow for better work-life integration?
Reentry into the workplace was more challenging than I anticipated. I think that flexibility is a critical component to success. I don’t think you can accurately anticipate exactly what you need until you go through the motions. You need to have the ability to reevaluate and/or adjust your hours and workload as you learn to manage the balance of career and new parenthood. The ease of the transition also is greatly influenced by the compassion and support of your colleagues and managers.

It is also important for companies to support mothers who pump because as a new mother, pumping is so frequent and demanding that it can dominate the structure of your entire day, especially as you are returning to work. At the Philadelphia office, when we transitioned into our new office space about three years ago, we were able to design a specific mother’s/wellness room into our office space. Having a dedicated space and resources to pump meant better productivity and extended the duration of breastfeeding/pumping which I may have not been able to reach otherwise. This, however, isn’t always the norm despite legislation requiring employers to provide women with time and space to pump.

I also believe additional policies such as having core hours and improved support for remote working would make the transition easier and retain more talent.

Describe your involvement with equity, diversity, and inclusion work at Bohlin Cywinski Jackson. What are you most passionate about improving?
Obviously work-life balance is very important to me, but it’s important to note that this is not an issue that pertains to only women, but to everyone, including parents and non-parents. I’m eager to help facilitate the conversation in this area with my colleagues and help them access resources that are available.

Another aspect that is important to me is taking what we learn through these initiatives to make us better designers and citizens.

What is one thing each of us can do today to help foster a more equitable workplace?
Be more self-aware. Understand that we all have implicit biases and learn to recognize when they may impact our thinking. We should keep the dialogue open about these issues, but equally important, we must also be attuned listeners.

Another way to enhance communication is to have conversations with colleagues that you may not normally chat with, about something that isn’t necessarily work-related and discover those commonalities and differences among us.

What advice would you give to women who are struggling to find a balance between their careers and parenthood?
Speak up. Both to your managers about what you think you need to find that balance and to crowdsource ideas from other working moms who have faced similar struggles.

It may not feel easy now, but it is also important to instigate change. By speaking up, we can all work to make it a little easier for the next new parent, and have them do the same, and continue to make these ripples of change.

Is there anything else you think is worth sharing as part of this discussion?
I think there’s a lot of discussion about parental leave and those who take it, but I think we should also talk about those [coworkers] who shoulder the responsibility to cover for the new parent in their absence [at work], and how to make it more equitable for everyone. I don’t know what that means yet, but I think we should keep having that conversation.

What architectural building achievement are you most proud of and why?
I think I’ve been very fortunate to work on some very exciting projects. I’m especially proud of my current project, New College House West, a new residential dormitory for the University of Pennsylvania. I was involved from concept design through construction (slated for completion for the Fall 2021 semester) and helped lead the effort for the exterior envelope and expression. This is the first prefabricated exterior wall panel project that I’ve worked on, so I’ve enjoyed learning about the tectonics and construction for this particular system. The development of the material palette was also personally fulfilling as I believe that the tactile qualities of materials impart an intrinsic element of the human experience in architecture.

Want to hear more?
Follow us on Medium, Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook for more on this month’s discussion focused on women in the industry and equity in the workplace. Next up is an interview with two women comparing their career paths both in school and in entering the profession.

Further Reading:
Meet Victoria Acevedo, a Leader on the Rise
Associate Annelise Pitts Advances Equity in the Architectural Field

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