Mitra Esfandiari is an architect and executive director at RDC, focusing on entertainment and high-end retail projects.
Mitra Esfandiari. Courtesy photo
What was your biggest challenge or biggest obstacle as a woman in your particular role? How did you overcome these obstacles? People who refuse to recognize a woman's skills and authority are one of the main challenges in my field. Unfortunately, the image of the client conveyed in popular culture remains white and masculine. While there may be the right intentions regarding women's equality and diversity in my field in general, There are still subconscious micro-prejudices. These can lead to behaviors and body language that are deeply ingrained in parenting and society, which is disheartening and causes women to leave the field. Even if the statistics and representation of women in professions currently male dominated do justice, we will not succeed until women's voices are considered to be of equal value.
The struggle for equal consideration is a daily struggle. Women need to shout this out every time it occurs as others may not be aware of it even when their heart is in the right place. People's natural tendency to bond with people who are similar to them. Another aspect of accepting diversity that is critical to maintaining diversity is stepping out of your comfort zone and connecting, hugging, listening, and learning from people who are different from you .
I am often asked how I have dealt with these challenges in my career. I was lucky to be inspired by a family who believed women should break through the glass ceiling. However, there is no college course or education that prepares women for the challenges of the workplace. I learned that women have big dreams and have to work hard to take our points of view and ideas seriously and to seize opportunities in leadership. Women need to acquire knowledge / expertise, be patient, extremely cooperative, seek mentoring and not wait for something to be handed over to us. There is no uniform management style. Every woman can create her own leadership style based on her unique characteristics.
At the beginning of my career, the culture was that men take on the leadership role and women take a back seat and work in supporting positions. I wanted more, so I had to comment on my ambitions. I was fortunate to have a family that supported my dreams. Your support gave me the confidence to seek mentors and to insist that those mentors take me seriously.
Commercial real estate (CRE) has historically been a challenging industry for women. This is gradually changing, but where does commercial real estate for women need to be improved? Mentoring has been such a big part of men's success and we should be sure to make mentoring part of everyone's success. That means for women and for the diversity that exists in the world. Mentors who see diversity as an asset can help others build careers.
In general, I would say that any organization should seek professional training for employees at all levels to listen, engage and learn from a diverse community and what the benefits are.
How can women better position themselves for success, both in general and in your specific focus? Education is the first step in preparing for success in general, and finding mentors in school and in practice is invaluable. This is especially important for women as there is no course or training to prepare women for the real challenges of work. The school is focused on learning the craft, and early jobs provide a place to be a sponge while learning the architecture practice. As you progress in your career, the challenges become greater. More training and mentoring can help to overcome the new hurdles more easily and with less shock. I would encourage women to talk and learn with each other, share experiences and support one another to the fullest while I pave the way for other women.
In the face of all challenges, it is important to remain cooperative and maintain a positive attitude while pushing for change when necessary. Architecture firms are still lagging behind when it comes to women in leadership positions. While women are about 50 percent of the students currently enrolled in architecture courses, only 12 percent of the heads of architecture firms are women. All leaders need to investigate the reasons for this and work to remove the obstacles.
What's the best advice for the next generation? The best advice I've been given is to speak up and be persistent. It is important to understand that achieving goals takes time and patience, and that those who move on and don't give up are the ones who succeed.
What can women bring to the table in particular if the industry continues to grapple with the COVIS19 crisis? When women work from home, they need to be sure that they are being supported and not trying to do everything. Women can take this time to change ideas about how housework and childcare are shared among parents, and how all work women do is recognized as work. Women need to put themselves on the agenda so that they are not overwhelmed at this point.
Would you advise your daughter to start a career with CRE? I would advise my daughter to follow her passion for the field she wants to work in. Every profession requires persistence, patience and perseverance. It is a passion for what you do that keeps you going, and that passion is what makes the rewards so enjoyable when you succeed.