In recognition of the 35th annual Women’s History Month, we are spotlighting some of the women behind Finegold Alexander Architect’s success. Principal and K-12 studio leader, Regan Shields Ives, AIA, ALEP, LEED AP, NCARB joined us in a discussion about her experience as a woman in the field of architecture including developments made in the industry over time, mentorships, sources of support, and more.
Q: When you were entering the field of architecture was there an individual person who inspired you?
R: Rather than one individual person serving as a role model, I found my source of inspiration from my peers during my undergraduate and graduate studies. We supported one another through those intense times.
I did cross paths with a number of inspirational instructors along the way. One instructor that stands out in my mind is Marion Weiss, Graham Professor of Practice in Architecture at the University of Pennsylvania and co-founder of WEISS/MANFREDI. I was in awe of her work and the career she built with her partner, Michael. I remember the studio with her well and how she challenged me and pushed me in ways I hadn’t been pushed before. While there were tough moments in her course, it was clear that she was challenging me because she was confident in my capabilities and that I could push myself to succeed.
When I entered the industry following my studies I was connected with a network of other emerging women in the Boston architecture profession. We became a support system for one another as we navigated careers and the early days of parenthood. Even now, years later, it is exciting to see where our careers have taken us. We still connect with each other whether it be emailing notes of encouragement or getting together to celebrate important milestones in our lives.
Q: What did Finegold Alexander becoming a WBE in 2018 mean to you?
R: The certification itself is not what has had the biggest impact to our firm, it is the significant changes we have made to the firm culture and policy where you see the differences. As a profession, I have seen changes over the years as we become more conscious about supporting our staff not just at work, but in their overall wellbeing. We understand people have needs outside of the office, whether it be families or other obligations and interests. This has all been exacerbated over the past 2 years with the pandemic and we have proven we can be productive AND flexible.
“As a profession, I have seen changes over the years as we become more conscious about supporting our staff not just at work, but in their overall wellbeing. We understand people have needs outside of the office, whether it be families or other obligations and interests.”
One thing that does really excite me about being a WBE, is seeing an industry-wide focus on incorporating diversity. Many clients are very aware of their project teams’ composition and encourage proposed teams to meet a certain threshold of diversity. This is a significant shift in the profession when looking back at where we have come from. Historically, the field has not had a lot of diversity and there is now a universal emphasis to change this.
Q: Did you ever feel like you were expected to sacrifice aspects of your career when you decided to have a child?
R: Early on in my career, when I had a young son, I felt the need to overcompensate for having a family and life outside of work. I worked very hard, burning the candle at both ends, to make sure I was “at my best” at both work and home. I now know this is an impossible feat. I would like to think there is more transparency, flexibility, and understanding for those who have young families, elderly parents, or just need the extra space to care for others outside of work.
Q: What value have your mentor relationships brought to your career?
R: When I first moved to Boston and was starting my career in architecture, I was connected with Jim Alexander, FAIA, LEED AP through the BSA mentoring program. I was having a difficult time navigating the Boston architectural world and I knew I had not found my right home, professionally. Having Jim as a mentor and an advocate, I had someone with a lot of experience I could bounce ideas off of and help me define my goals of where I wanted my career to go. Fortunately, the stars aligned; I made the decision it was time to look for a new job and a new opportunity opened up at Finegold Alexander. This early mentor relationship with Jim had such a profound effect on my career that I eventually started the Finegold Alexander Mentoring Program, which continues on to this day!
Q: What is some advice you have for young women in architecture today?
R: I can’t overstate the importance of finding your support system. Each individual’s network may look different, maybe it is one person, maybe it’s a collection of people, but having that system of support while navigating your career is critical. On a similar note, finding an advocate to speak on your behalf and help champion your goals is so important. Whether you are new to the profession or new to a firm, it can be difficult at first to find your way to the table where decisions are being made. Look for someone who has been in your shoes before who can take you under their wing and advocate for you.
“I can’t overstate the importance of finding your support system. Each individual’s network may look different, maybe it is one person, maybe it’s a collection of people, but having that system of support while navigating your career is critical.”