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President-Elect Candidate Forum Question 1 - SuLin Kotowicz

We know that females account for 61 percent of ASLA Student members, however it is the polar opposite in the Full membership category. How can ASLA lead in the work of retaining women in the profession and in its membership?

SuLin Kotowicz, FASLA

“Let us make our future now, and let us make our dreams tomorrow’s reality.” ~Malala Yousafzai

ASLA honors our multi-faceted membership by celebrating Diverse Heritage Months. As we celebrate Women’s History Month, I’m excited to discuss how ASLA can better serve our members.

The critical challenges women face have changed via legislative support from gaining the right to vote just over a century ago to passage of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act in 1978 to the Family Medical Leave Act of 1993. Today’s issues are unique to each of us and made more urgent with the Covid pandemic. Women face difficult choices with or without children to maintain work-life balance, caregiving for elderly family members, mental and physical health, the gender wage and promotion gap and more.

Beginning with Darwina Neal, our first woman ASLA President, and her 1972 task force, ASLA has sought to understand women’s roles, status, and underrepresentation in landscape architecture. Data from our current strategic plan combined with research like the VELA Project, TJ Marston and Samantha Solano’s research collaborative, and WxLA and Sahar Teymouri’s 2020 survey on Gender Equity in Landscape Architecture form an excellent base of information. The Women in Landscape Architecture PPN has been a place to share stories and gain vital understanding of the barriers women in the profession face.

ASLA women have a great breadth of life experiences. Each individual’s professional path is as unique as the priorities and values we place on ASLA membership. To craft a Society which fits our diverse membership needs and supports a ceiling-less future, we must start with an understanding of who we are serving and your stories. Without this, we risk one-size-fits-none solutions. We must implement initiatives formed from this foundation to inspire momentum for transformational change and a future full of opportunity.

I’m excited by current gender equality initiatives: the third consecutive all-female ASLA President-Elect ballot; ASLA womens leadership gatherings during ReVISION 2020 and 2021 SKILL|ED to network and share support; ASLA Fund’s Women of Color Licensure Advancement Program; ASLA’s 2022 Women’s Task Force; LAM and LAND Online recognizing inspirational women; and recent mentorship and sponsorship communities where all parties are heard, celebrated and grow from their shared experiences.

Possible future initiatives for limitless potential:

  • Promote more women for leadership in Chapters, National ASLA and elected offices.
  • Challenge workplaces to incorporate gender equality in their policies and structure.
  • Provide guidelines for firms and agencies to have clear, non-gender-biased firm advancement procedures which accommodate individualized work-life balances.
  • Promote salary structures commensurate of skills and responsibilities.
  • Consider more ASLA membership options; a choose-your-own-adventure-style package may better serve our diverse members.
  • Create regional opportunities for women to gather, connect and support one another.
  • Introduce girls in every K-12 classroom to the awesome STEM profession of landscape architecture.

As your future President-Elect, it would be my pledge to empower, encourage and help instill confidence in women in the profession. Together, we imagine a better, more equitable future and are called do the hard work to implement tomorrow’s reality.

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