Women Working Together Networking Event draws approximately 170 AEC industry professionals and 21 company sponsors to its inaugural networking evening in downtown Los Angeles.

LOS ANGELES, Calif. – On the heels of Women in Construction Week and the last day of Women’s History Month, four architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) industry professional women’s organizations joined forces for the inaugural Women Working Together (WWT) Networking Event. A collaboration between the American Institute of Architects, Los Angeles Women in Architecture Committee (AIALA-WiA); National Association of Women in Construction Los Angeles Chapter (NAWIC-LA); Structural Engineers Association of Southern California Women in Structural Engineering Committee (SEAOSC-WiSE) and Women in Construction Operations Southern California Chapter (WiOPS), the sold-out evening event took place on March 31, 2022 at City Green in Downtown Los Angeles.

With approximately 170 people in attendance, this was the first time these four organizations have collaborated to provide an opportunity for their members to interact. In keeping with the “women working together” theme, the event featured a selection of wine procured and made by women wine makers from Vinovore, as well as a special performance by Spags, an electric female violinist who is a master at creatively merging the classical violin with modern music.

The Women Working Together Steering Committee was comprised of six women from four professional organizations focused on the advancement of women in the AEC industry. Left to Right: Jennifer Noel Wong, AIALA-WiA, CO Architects; Leah Wimberly, WiOPS, Pacific Wall Systems, Inc; Michelle Kam-Biron, SEAOSC-WiSE, Structurlam; Ileana Holguin, NAWIC-LA, McCarthy Building Companies; Ashley Richardson, AIALA-WiA, Ehrlich Yanai Rhee Chaney Architects; and Barbara Kotsos, NAWIC-LA, Giroux Glass.

“Working in male-dominated industries of varying degrees, women in architecture, engineering and construction careers may not have many other women to interact with and learn from in their daily work environments,” says Michelle Kam-Biron, WWT Steering Committee member representing SEAOSC-WiSE, mass timber specialist at Structurlam. “The WWT Networking Event provided an opportunity for the participating professional organizations and members to connect as a larger group and expand their voice, work to increase opportunities for principal positions in their industries and develop mutually beneficial relationships moving forward.”

“This event, during Women’s History Month, delivers allyship, support and collaboration that will lead to positive change in our professions well beyond this celebratory time,” said Jennifer Noel Wong, WWT Steering Committee member representing AIA|LA -WiA, Associate at CO Architects.

With the numbers beginning to improve due to company and professional organization efforts like the WWT event, women are still underrepresented in the AEC industry. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Women comprise only 10.9% of construction industry workers, yet they make up 47% of the nation’s workforce. Architecture and engineering fare a little better with women comprising just 27% of the workers in this sector.  Studies also show that AEC industry careers for women are often short lived due to inflexible hours, non-progressive culture, lack of advancement and limited mentorship opportunities.

“In response to the AEC industry experiencing pre- and post-pandemic talent shortages along with increases in market demands and realizing the advantages of having a diverse staff, attracting and retaining more women to AEC careers has become a growing industry-wide focus,” says Kam-Biron.  “Exemplifying this movement, the organizations leading WWT are seeing an uptick in engagement among industry companies boosting our efforts to support and advance women in their AEC careers.”

“The company sponsorships and turnout for our inaugural WWT event were overwhelming,” said Ileana Holguin, WWT Steering Committee member representing NAWIC-LA, vice president, project executive at McCarthy Building Companies.  “It was inspiring to meet and talk with so many supportive men and women in different AEC-industry roles and stages of their careers. With college interns, project managers, vice presidents, business owners and more engaging in conversations, everyone had the opportunity to develop fruitful new business connections and relationships.”

The event garnered the financial support of 21 companies including: Brandow & Johnston, Coleman Equipment Rentals, Clark Construction, IMEG Corporation, McCarthy Building Companies, Pacific Wall Systems, Inc., T&S Structural, Abet Laminati, Giroux Glass Inc., HBC, JRM Construction West, Martin Bros., Murray Company, Vulcan Materials Company, Structural Focus, Thornton Tomasetti, Hathaway Dinwiddie, Kimley Horn, MATT Construction, Miyamoto and USGBC-LA.

Kelly Strain, senior project manager at Chambers Group, and environmental consulting firm, said, “A highlight for me was having the opportunity to meet a vast array of interesting, bright, and accomplished individuals.” Other positive feedback about the evening echoed by multiple attendees reflected the pleasure they received in connecting with other women, discovering opportunities to positively impact the advancement of women, being part of the significant turnout—of both men and women—to support women in the industry, and last but not least, enjoying an elegant event, venue and entertainment.

The planning team reveals that this will likely not be an isolated event. “Due to this level of interest within the industry, the WWT steering committee is planning another WWT event next year and will continue to look for regular opportunities to network with one another,” says Kam-Biron.

The following individuals served on the WWT steering committee: Michelle Kam-Biron, SEAOSC-WiSE, Structurlam; Ashley Richardson, AIALA-WiA, Ehrlich Yanai Rhee Chaney Architects; Jennifer Noel Wong, AIALA-WiA, CO Architects; Leah Wimberly, WiOPS, Pacific Wall Systems, Inc; Barbara Kotsos, NAWIC-LA, Giroux Glass; Ileana Holguin, and NAWIC-LA, McCarthy Building Companies.

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