THE BLOG
10/10/2013 05:12 pm ET Updated Jan 23, 2014

Where Are the Women?

"Find a way!!" This is a quote from Diana Nyad when she was interviewed by Oprah Winfrey about overcoming challenges to make her historic swim from Cuba to Florida recently. This is a woman who has intimate knowledge of hardship and sacrifice in order to achieve a personal goal -- which just so happened to be an incredible human achievement for the record books. These words of wisdom would also be a great lesson to pass on to our entire host of politicians, many of the prominent leaders being men, who are currently holding the U.S. political system ransom for the sake of ego, power and financial considerations. Perhaps these fellows could learn from women to stop bumping chests in order to satisfy pride and instead look at the common good to come to consensus.

I do not pretend to understand all of the complexities of our current political situation, but I think that women, in general, have expertise in communication and cooperation and these skills seems to be in short supply in U.S. politics right now -- as are the female faces on the podiums! We represent 50 percent of the population and we should have that same representation. Besides, we have this talent that could be of great help to America! It is something women learn very young as they try to please parents, develop close friendships or relationships. Later, they become proficient in the art of negotiation and conciliation when raising children. How many mothers have had to bargain with hysterical toddlers to get them to behave and eat healthy, cajole adolescents to dress appropriately and be polite or get teens to study harder and avoid the pitfalls of smoking, early sex and drinking. These tasks take incredible emotional and physical stamina, especially when they are done while the woman also holds down a part or full time job or volunteer position where she further works diligently on compromise to achieve balance in her life.

I currently work in the field of construction as an architect and while 50 percent of my graduating class were women, only 8-11% of these women went on to practice as registered professional architects. Somewhere between college and a career, valuable women are pushed out of this profession, often by the male architects, and not by contractors or developers necessarily. These are the same professionals who are trying to convince clients that they understand the leading edge in the design of the work place. Many blame the long hours, inflexible office conditions and limited mentors in the architectural practice for the low number of women, but shouldn't the profession recognize this as a problem to be fixed.

Several years ago, I had seen an article in the Toronto Globe called "Female Architects Seen Running for Exits" and I asked a few of my fellow female architects if they had felt bullied or discriminated against in the offices they had worked. Each quickly confirmed, as though I was the only one who didn't know, that they had problems working in the larger firms and that was why many women tried to set up as sole proprietors instead. Of course, that is exactly what I had been doing for the last 15 years in my solo architectural practice -- but the situation needs to change to allow more women successful careers of their choice!

Women are skilled at communication, consensus seeking and multi-tasking. These are important abilities that can benefit all of us but we need women to support each other and to step forward to serve the greater good, despite how difficult that may be. Many powerful women have tried, and not been as successful as they deserve when joining the political arena, but it is a building block situation. The more we contribute and become active in roles such as politician, law maker and even designer, the more women will have a chance to make a difference in the world. As a sex, we come fully equipped with a compassionate nature, which is critical when discussing big topics such as health care, immigration or abortion, no matter which side of these debates you are on. We need more women in these discussions and more importantly, the decision making! We need to "Find a way"!

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