It’s no secret that there are persisting gender inequalities across the economy, but some industries have made greater strides than others in hiring, promoting and retaining female employees. Sadly, the Architecture, engineering and construction (AEC)industries, broadly speaking, lag behind industries like law and medicine, with less female representation not only at the managerial level, but in the workforce as a whole.
This is a complex, multifaceted problem, but one significant contributor to these disparities is a lack of early exposure to some of the concepts that attract young people to the design industry. Young girls need to be given the message that design and construction are not inherently masculine, and that they too can participate in this fun and challenging endeavor. That’s where Anthony Billet, president of visual marketing company abSketches and a sitting board member of the Girl Scouts, saw an opportunity.
Billet and his team created a workshop aimed at getting young girls between 8 and 10 years of age interested in architecture and design. The setup was simple: they used 3ds Max to design a virtual “Girl Scout Cookie Shop,” complete with multiple possible variations on key exterior and interior design elements (building material, wallpaper color, architectural style, for example), as well as branding. Then they hosted a special workshop for the Girl Scouts and their parents or guardians, where they presented them with the opportunity to earn a “Design Badge” by answering multiple-choice questions about their ideal shop, such as: what would its name be? What architectural style or interior color scheme would suit it?
Once all the selections were made, Billet and his team discussed their choices with the girls, asking them why they made certain decisions. The team then brought the girls to a workstation and had them watch the software render their choices into the Girl Scout cookie shop of their dreams. “The girls’ imaginations ran wild upon realizing all of their choices were now being made ‘real,’” Billet told us. The final cherry on top: each girl was then given a printout of their unique design.
Activities like this have an incredible impact on young girls. Not only do they have intrinsic educational value, demonstrating the importance of planning and collaboration, but they expose girls to the magic of conceptualization and design. “My biggest takeaway,” Billet told us upon reflection, “was that the girls really enjoyed architecture and design – all aspects of design. They were engaged and genuinely very interested. They were well thought out in their communications and decision making, and able, as a team, to come together for what the final ‘Cookie Shop’ would look like. In many ways, they did this better than many professionals we work with on a daily basis!”
Thrilled by the girls’ positive response, Anthony is already planning to expand these workshops, opening them up to older and younger girls, introducing all of them to the various facets of the AEC industry -even giving them an early introduction to 3ds Max. “The project itself took my team about a month to put together, including the curriculum and building out all the options for the girls to work through. But now that everything is created, we can continue to offer this opportunity for the girls to continue engaging and building interest in an under-represented industry.”
For the time being, the AEC industry is still very male-driven, but with efforts like Anthony Billets’ workshops giving young girls an early exposure to the industry and, more importantly, the confidence that their input is needed and valued, the future is bright.
Learn more about abSketches here.