Originally published on AIASiliconValley.org.
Six years ago a local architect and respected leader set an ambitious goal to host a prestigious national conference in San Jose. In 2015, Pamela Anderson-Brulé was the first woman to be elevated to the College of Fellows in the 63-year history of the AIA Silicon Valley chapter. She took the honor as a call to action and a catalyst to create the AIA SVC Women in Architecture committee. Reflecting on the journey, Anderson-Brulé recalls, “What started with inviting three women to join me has turned into a remarkable committee of over 60 members and a pathway to strong female leadership. The first big goals we established were to increase female Fellowship in our chapter and to host the National AIA Women Leadership Summit.” In 2018, Sharon Refvem became the second AIA SVC woman in architecture elevated to Fellowship, and now three years later, the chapter has been selected by AIA National to host the WLS.
The first WLS began as a grassroots effort to bring together women principals of architecture firms, women in leadership positions, and women architects moving into leadership roles across the country for an intense two-day summit focusing on leadership and design. Today, the summit represents the largest gathering of women in architecture from all career stages who raise each other up and explore, grow, and learn from one another.
In partnership with AIA National and AIA SVC’s Executive Director Kristen Werner, the 2022 WLS will be led by a strong committee of women architects: Mariana Alvarez-Parga, Leah Alissa Bayer, Katia McClain, Dasha Ortenberg, and Stephanie Silkwood. The 2022 WLS co-chairs have grown together over the past years as leaders of the WIA committee, founding co-chairs of the signature Architectural Intelligence (AI) Conference, and now hosting a national conference, exemplifying the value of creating a strong professional network.
After a tumultuous year, this event is more important than ever for women. Though Silicon Valley is often seen by the rest of the world as a utopian center of innovation, it has a difficult history with equity, inclusion, and diversity. The events of 2020 revealed how significant these issues still are today and reaching a critical boiling point. AIA Silicon Valley aims to highlight its local built environment in all its complexity, open discussions of the role of the architect as a social leader and innovator in social equity and justice, and showcase the Bay Area as a diverse, unique, multi-faceted place that inspires people to reinvent and recreate better life experiences for their communities.
At its core, the Summit co-chairs hope to create an event that calls on female leaders to use their privilege to benefit others, particularly through mentorship and sponsorship, recognizing that investing in people is one of the best ways to create positive change. Anderson-Brulé is excited to witness her dream realized, noting, “True growth and transformation comes from conscientious self-awareness, confidence, and courage. I look forward to a summit that can create an intimate connection to each woman, so that she can see herself in her future state of leadership and have the tools, mentorship, and pathway to advance her career.”