On Being Forgotten

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“Women usually get forgotten in these conversations”, my ex-employer said to me.

It was during the annual review that I realized every male colleague at my level received a raise except me. 

When I asked why that’s the answer I was given.

I was forgotten.

The worse part? She was a woman herself.

I felt a pain in my heart. Why do I work so hard if I’m simply forgotten?

Over the past couple of years in architecture, I realized many of us have experienced the same situation.

  • We feel like we don’t belong in this industry.

  • We don’t have anyone to relate to.

  • We have no options and nowhere to turn.

There are plenty of design blogs showing us pretty pictures and interviews telling us success stories.

But no one ever tells you the failure we all went through.

So in 2014, I decided to document these stories on my blog.

I shared about failing my ARE exam twice, and inspired Sayuj to face his fear, “Wow this was inspirational. My procrastination on finding jobs is the fear of getting rejections.”

When I shared my burnout at work, Lili was encouraged to tell us about her experience, “I really like this topic and I think I'm very inspired to say a lot of things!...”

The blog was soon recognized as one of the Best Blogs for Architecture Students and Interns by NCARB.

But I realized that wasn’t enough.

After getting licensure last year, I decided to use the momentum to make a bigger impact.

I started Women Architects Collective and soon received some positive feedback:

  • Janna said, “This community is hugely helpful for me. Hope I can be as helpful to some of you!”

  • Others like Katie feels that “I have a safe place to ask questions and have a place where others go through the same struggles I have.”  

Before long, over 1300 female architects had joined. We all felt connected as we belonged.

I decided to make posts about different struggles, questions, and the accomplishments we had.

After a few months, I started realizing the concerns that most women architects share:

  • Getting paid equally as male colleagues;

  • To be taken seriously in this male-dominated industry;

  • Being heard on construction site.

But what does this really mean?

It means we want to be heard. We don’t want to be forgotten.

And it is my goal to create an online platform for women architects to be heard and supported.

Within Gensler, I provide advice to those who are struggling with their AREs, and educate a studio of 30 people as a Process Design Leader.

But my favorite moments are mentoring young designers like Katie to fulfill her dream of transitioning from an admin to designer.

I’m humbled to say that this year I became an Associate for my leadership and contribution to the firm.

With my impact on our profession, I’m grateful to be considered for the AIANY Women in Architecture Recognition Award.

And with this recognition, I’m dedicated to building a future where women are not forgotten in architecture.

Note to you

This was a submission article I wrote for the AIANY Women in Architecture Recognition Award.

While I didn’t win the award, but this essay was so near and dear to my heart that I want to share with you all.

We all became who we are because of what we experienced in life.

I hope this story inspires you to transform any negative experience you might have into a positive motivator.

Share your story with us

Now it’s your turn to share your unique story with us.

Have you had similar stories in your career?

What did you do about it and what did you learn from it?

Leave a comment below and let us know!

Love, Jo.

Joann Lui

Joann is a licensed architect in Gensler NY and the founder of Women Architects Collective - a community for career support and encouragement with thousands of women architects. You can reach out to Joann directly right here or follow her and her little Pomeranian on Instagram.