JESSICA ELLIOT, M.ARCH I 2016
As we anxiously toil away on portfolio, cover letters and CVs in preparation for full-time jobs, summer internships, and other professional experiences, we should be lightly reminded that this process comes with not only the desire to find the right firms, the right cities, and the right people, but also the careful massaging of how much we are worth in the industry, and how much we value ourselves and our time, in terms of those big dollar amounts.
Throughout our time here, we are confronted by these topics in more than a few ways, and we have been supported not only by mother YSoA, but also by sharing peers’ experiences within the many student-led initiatives here, bringing our attention to more than our endless production for studio. For this we are fortunate. Thinking about money and the process of negotiating our value in a very over-worked and under-paid profession is terrifying, stressful, and uncomfortable, before and even after the deed is done. This is true, perhaps even more so for women.
One of my personal problems with negotiation is my desire to weigh potential outcomes with the effort and stress that they entail. For example, if I get an offer and am able to negotiate a few thousand dollars more, is that awkward feeling and the fear of having alienated myself from my potential employer worth the few extra dollars I will get each paycheck? As we learned from Phil Bernstein and Nancy Alexander during their Salary Negotiation Workshop, negotiating a slightly higher salary can have staggering long-term implications.
To this end, as we look forward to the offers pouring in after career fair, we should challenge ourselves to set a few boundaries. We should think about what we want and what we deserve. We should set minimum salary limits and consider location and cost of living. Some of my friends in Florida entered the workforce post-grad school at salaries around $35k, which seems low but, with respect to the cost of living in Orlando, would be worth just under $80k in Manhattan: more than what any of us first-time full-timers will be looking at in May.
Another question we should ask is: where do we see ourselves in 5, 10, 20 years? Having a goal and constantly refocusing our aim at achieving our loftiest aspirations is one of the most productive things that we can do for ourselves. In speaking to friends in the profession, it is concerning how few women are in leadership roles at many architecture firms, and the number of women who are licensed is equally concerning. Being conscious of this gap, and paying attention to women’s’ fulfillment of leadership and management roles can speak volumes about a firm. Regardless, the percent gap in pay between genders in 2004-2014 remained consistent, with a 9-11.5% difference between men and women in the industry. Similarly, dealing with sexual discrimination and harassment will be a challenge as “nearly three-quarters (72%) of women worldwide say they have experienced sexual discrimination, harassment or victimization during their career in architecture.”
I hope that each and every one of us actively challenges the work and value culture within the profession throughout our careers. It doesn’t have to be like this and we deserve better.
More than anything, I’m trying to stay positive and to hold true to the goals and limits that I have for myself. It’s sometimes easier to be cynical, to accept things the way that they are, and to question the purpose or effectiveness of fighting, but I think we can actively be the change we wish to see. I hope that we all hold on to that youthful desire to change the world for as long as we possibly can, and I truly believe that the people I’ve met here at YSoA will be the leaders in advancing our profession in all of the right directions.