Alternate yet connected career options for women architects and designers during break mainstream

WADe India, the federation of World Women Architects & Designers was launched in 2016 to connect the women of the industry, and also to be instrumental in bringing some important issues to the fore that needs solution. During the launch, role models and young talented women designers were felicitate

WADe India, the federation of World Women Architects & Designers was launched in 2016 to connect the women of the industry, and also to be instrumental in bringing some important issues to the fore that needs solution. During the launch, role models and young talented women designers were felicitated.

Dr. Kiran Bedi opened up the platform with a powerful speech about her experience while designing the Tihar Jail. More than 350 delegates attended the gala event that set the ball rolling for initiatives in the segment of Women in Design. Some objectives of WADe India are:

  • Ensuring visibility of Women-led projects
  • Bridging Mentorship between Leading & Aspiring Designers
  • Standing by those who want to come back to the profession
  • Encouraging, Sharing & Learning through Research
  • Celebrating the Life, Work and Achievements of Women Architects & Designers
  •  Rewards & Recognition

Survey by WADe India points out that a lot of women architects & designers never return back to the profession, once they take a break for playing their biological roles as mother, wife etc specially if the break is in tune of one or more years. Many women we talked to attribute this to family needs. Those who are wishing to return find challenge in managing the tough working hours, traveling, staying updated with work needs, and not getting enough of peer and company support. They get disconnected from the industry.

While there are women in the fraternity who are managing both the worlds beautifully, we are focusing on those women who need a bit of hand holding. Our survey suggests, these are mostly the women who do not have any other Architect or Designer in the family.

With this category as the target segment, WADe believes that if these women pursue alternate yet connected career options for the specific period of break (we are assuming a period of 1 to 3+ years), she will stay connected, updated and it will be smoother for her to join the mainstream as and when she finds it comfortable. Through this discussion, WADe India is seeking to find some of the best options to pursue during break.

Panelists: Ar. Priyanka Khanna, Principal, 42mm Architecture; Ar. Manishi Agarwal, Co-Founder, Design Cosmos; Ar. Tanya Khanna, Founder & Director, Epistle Communications

Moderator: Vertica Dvivedi, Editor, Surfaces Reporter magazine; Founder, WADe India

Best working options for a woman architect or designer during a break which gives her flexibility of timing & keeps her connected:

Ar. Priyanka Khanna - Architecture as a field is changing in a very positive way by becoming more collaborative and inclusive. There are a lot of career options available for women today wherein they can not only take care of their families but remain connected to the field of architecture as well. One could be Architecture Journalism where they can collaborate with design magazines; online portals etc., and can write and participate in architectural discussion. This way they are not contributing in a single project but to the architecture as whole. Architecture is also a very generic field so rather than contributing to the whole spectrum, they can be a specialist for one field. For instance they can be a Façade or fenestration consultant . There they can be connected to cladding companies, Glass companies or other building skin technicians to build up their career. They can be Interior stylist as we all know that aesthetic today is also coming up as functional architecture. Such profession do not require a team per say and they can work independently with flexible hours.

Ar. Manishi Aggarwal- The foundation of this discussion is, everybody must understand that for a woman, her family is as important as her career is. Of course, the whole society doesn’t have that perception but we are assuming that it has so. According to me anyone who is planning to return to the field of architecture after a semi-break must stay updated of all the happenings in the industry. So all my options revolves around how can we stay updated during that period. One way is Photography. There is a huge demand of architectural photography. That way you are completely updated about what are the projects being designed, innovations being done etc. You can be in touch with lots of architecture firms where you can provide photography services to their projects. The second option is Documenting the Projects . By documenting, we don’t mean simply documenting the end product but the entire process of designing right from the idea, to design brief, brainstorming, material selection, construction process, till the end product gets ready. This is something we are currently experimenting with in our office now. The person who is documenting the entire process needs not to be there for the whole time but can come at flexible timings, during few hours a day or may be few days a week and can interact with the team. It is a great way to know about the project, technologies, materials being used, innovations etc. Thirdly, Blogging is very popular these days. When you read and stay updated with what’s happening while simultaneously writing, you can be completely aware while actually contributing to the thought process in architecture and design.

Ar. Tanya Khanna - I have a Masters in Architecture and run Epistle Communications. I stayed in architecture then took a step back primarily because, content that architects produce, on a daily basis, never gets recorded.

"You cannot have half of your population sitting at home just because there is a domesticated need. You must be able to bring your office home."

Coming back to the question of alternate career options, I believe, one can really stay connected with the profession through Architecture Education . Every architectural college in India need panelist having on field architectural experience to teach students. So it can be a great way to stay connected. Also, I strongly feel that women need not to make alternate career choice. If one wants to continue with architecture please do as our family supports our work. I have a child yet I haven’t taken a break from my work for a single day. Even in the hospital I was sending my emails. I have taken help from everybody be it husband, in laws, parents or friends. That’s how I stick to what I love to do. You must do what you love to do and then the alternates are there to actually balance it out. Architecture firms have evolved and diversified today. They have verticals like HR, Admin etc. Many architecture firms are documenting their work even writing books on their buildings so there is a need for people who can do this. Even in my work which is not an architecture firm, we have architects and interior designers working. So I would suggest everyone to not give up and keep sailing, you would eventually find your passion.

Also, a lot of firms now-a-days have flexible timings and allow women to work from home. With the technology & tools like Dropbox, the work has become much easier.

Job profiles within Architecture & Design firms that can offer flexible working or work at home options:

Ar. Priyanka Khanna: As designers, we lack certain things like communication & PR. So I believe there should be an In-House PR and Communication person for the curating the project information. This could be a good career option. Besides, in our office, we are also trying to develop a continues Research & Development team that can curate a Design Pool or Material Pallet consisting of proper documentation of new materials, designs and innovations which would help in working on any new project.

This is the need of the hour. You cannot have half of your population sitting at home just because there is a domesticated need. You must be able to bring your office home.

Ar. Tanya Khanna: We do have architects and designers in our firm actually working to build up the right Content for the projects. These are the people who have actual experience of building things up. Even Social media is a big tool today. I believe today every firm wants to have that in house profile. Other professions could be Furniture design or Product design where one can contribute its creativity significantly. Architecture is a profession that doesn’t bind us for anything. So in reality, we can choose whatever we would aspire to do.

Message to women who wish to return to the profession, yet feel Hesitant :

Ar. Tanya Khanna: My first message is ‘Talk to people around you.’ People are really hesitant to talk because of the way we have been brought up in our society. Talk to your ex-employees/ employers, talk to your mentors etc. Your confidence will build up once you start the dialogues with the right people.

Ar. Manishi Aggarwal: I would say ‘Have the will to come back’. I have seen people who have the desire to come back to profession but are so engrossed in their lives, that they couldn’t do so. You have to have your own time other than dedicating the entire time for the family. Find the will which is inside you and you can do it.

Ar. Priyanka Khanna: I think the initiative WADe has taken is very inspiring as you get to know and talk to the people who have already been in the same situation who have come back to the profession. So talk to people, read about people which will give you ample strength to move towards your goal. Secondly, be patient. Architecture is a profession where you have to be updated with current trends.

Finally, Vertica Dvivedi concluded the Take away from this session as: Drop the guilt, talk to people and most importantly, stay connected, as staying connected will help to make things happen.

We hope this initiative by WADe India along with Surfaces Reporter helps women from architecture, design & various connected fields to take note, open up, connect with us and benefit from the discussions & initiatives happening to come back to the mainstream once again. To be a part of discussions or for speaking opportunities, contact or visit

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