To celebrate International Women’s Day, we’ve collected the thoughts of women who have and are breaking boundaries in international hotel design. While we have come so far to champion equality in our industry, a recent report published by the BIID strongly suggests that there is a long way to go in order to create a equal opportunities in this global arena.
Let’s hear from our leading ladies on what the next step towards equality in design, architecture and hospitality needs to be.
“While women have made great strides in forging careers and have tremendous support within our industry, unfortunately there remains a difference to how we are perceived professionally and there are prejudices which some still hold on to therefore perpetuating their existence. Without being so utopian as to be unrealistic, my personal view is that at every opportunity presented to us we should learn to celebrate our differences, try to be tolerant and inclusive of one another to realise the best initiatives we can, together. It’s like chipping away at a founding stone of a pyramid – it’s going to take a while! Being a designer means questioning and thinking creatively is second nature, I always try to channel energy in finding a solution and not being content with a closed door.”
Una Barac, Executive Director, Atellior
“Sadly, there is still a way to go for women, and minorities, in the hospitality design sector across the world. If you look around, you find very few women at senior board level. Yet, studies repeatedly show that diversity is not only good for an organisation’s culture but results in better business outcomes.
At Atellior we are now 35 people across two offices, 22 of whom are women, and we pick our people based on their talent. Having grown up in Eastern Europe when it was governed by socialist ideology, one positive result was that I completely believed in gender equality. That’s why I eventually set up my own business!”
“We have come far but not far enough. Each generation moves forward and sadly this will take time. Whilst women now hold 30 per cent of all board roles in the UK, we are still faced with a system that doesn’t accommodate or value the fact that as women, we bear the children who will be our future. This shouldn’t be a juggle but embraced for the challenge it is and be met with inclusive solutions for all.”
Sarah Murphy, Architect, Jestico + Whiles
“Now is the best time ever to be a woman in the design industry. I love what I do and rarely feel as though my gender is a factor. While Jestico + Whiles is full of talented and amazing people and the company works hard to ensure equality and inclusivity is tackled day to day, not annually, we remain aware that there is work to be done internally and throughout the industry.
“I have been fortunate to work with inspirational female designers, associate directors and directors both in my company and client side. However, I recognise that my experiences are my own and that it might be different for other people – I haven’t got children yet for example. But undoubtedly, things have come a long way in even the decade I have been in the industry.
“It’s been a tough year for everyone, but I hope the shift to flexible working is here to stay. Allowing the individual to be more in control of their own structure and time might see a subtle change in inequality, through a more balanced way of life.”
“I was living in a commune and at primary school as the feminist movement took off. Surrounded by wonderful women and men working out what it meant to them and society. It was such an exciting time, but mostly in silo. There were mountains to climb. Men thinking they could touch you whenever they felt like it, the language used, the pay expectations let alone basic working and domestic rights.
“We have come so far in my life – it amazes me, and we must never forget that. But, that doesn’t mean we still don’t have more mountains to climb before equality. But these days, I can correct any male centric language, with anyone I work with, and its taken seriously. It feels like such progress. I have real hope for my daughters future. We must be alert though. We must keep up the fight and take our political responsivities seriously. Learn about our politicians and what they stand for. Or we could slide backwards so fast if we are in the wrong hands.” – the Bull Inn in Totnes was recently reviewed by Hotel Designs.
Marie Soliman, Co-Founder, Bergman Interiors
“My message this International Women’s Day would be to choose to challenge, choose to engage, choose to stand out of the crowd and choose to build and maintain meaningful relationships. A challenged world is an alert world. Individually, we’re all responsible for our own thoughts and actions – all day, every day. This year we are celebrating: The work of female creatives and elevate visibility for commercial projects and commissions; the female athletes and applauding when equability is achieved in pay, sponsorship and visibility; the digital advancement and championing the women forging through technology and leadership while uplifting women to pursue goals without bias or barriers. Above all, celebrating being a mother, a sister, a best friend and a life partner, supporting our families the most precious, are the most cherished and treasured gifts of all.” – Marie Soliman, Co-Founder, Bergman Interiors.
Geraldine Dohogne, Founder, Beyond Design
“Gender equality in design continues to be an evolution in the world. As a woman, in many parts of the world people are not always used to seeing a woman as a figure of authority, and even in countries where it’s more common there can still be this sub-conscious thinking. Construction, building and of course architectural development are all very important parts to designing a hotel. Roles and industries that have been pre-dominantly male, though in recent years are seeing more women every day. It’s been exciting to be in this moment of history.
Design processes have always been driven by intuition and feeling, as soon as you discovery a place or an existing building. The hiring processes in design follows this same rhythm. Each is taken on as an individual with a unique soul and character and the creative styles either come together organically or not. From a designer point of view – this allows a much more level playing field.
As a designer with a more ‘masculine’ style (so people tell me!) it’s an interesting balance that plays out in my work.”
Pinar Harris, Vice President and Principal, SB Architects
“There has been a surge of women taking on leadership roles, but we still have a way to go. We need to make sure we have women in ‘decision maker’ roles and strive to maintain an equal seat at the right tables to effect change and make an impact in the field. Women are currently achieving this goal, and it’s evolving one meeting at a time, one day at a time.
“We’re working on closing a gap spanning centuries of continuous inequality, so, we still have a way to go, but, personally, I’m hopeful that our daughters are being raised with a mindset of absolute equality, with some fantastic role models in front of them in every field.”
Hotel Designs is proud to support and celebrate equality in design. Following a recent report published by the BIID, it is clear that much more needs to be done in order for us to operate in a truly democratic and equal international hotel design and hospitality scene. Happy International Women’s Day!