Build Studios CEO hosts PowWow Waterloo panel discussion on International Women’s Day

9th March 2022

This March Build Studios held an event on “Making Space for Women” as part of WeAreWaterloo’s PowWow series. Taking place in Leake Street Arches, four leading women in the built environment sector joined Build Studios chief executive Helen Santer to discuss the issue of representation. Only 30% of architects in England are women, (AJ), while 94% are white (Guardian) and just 11% of engineers are women (Property Week). The gathering felt necessary to celebrate each other’s achievements whilst aiming for a more inclusive future.

The panel consisted of Build Studio’s member Tara Gbolade founder of the sustainable architecture practice Gbolade Design Studio and the Paradigm Network, a professional community championing black and Asian representation in the sector. Co-founder of Matt + Fiona and head of learning at the Design Museum, Fiona McDonald was also a speaker. She runs her architectural education social enterprise out of MakeSpace studios which are also based in Waterloo. The other panellists were Ana Becheru, co-founder of the Romanian architects and urbanists’ forum and director on secondment for Global Operations from JLL and Imogen Blaikie, an urban planner at Allies and Morrison who are currently developing a placemaking strategy for Waterloo.

Helen shared slices of local history about the area and the strong women who’ve populated it, such as the suffragette Emma Cons and her niece Lilian Baylis who managed the Old Vic throughout the early 1900s. Aspiring young architects, students passionate about women’s rights and an array of industry experts made up the audience. “Making Space for Women” was an uplifting gathering that saw everyone walk away with a fresh perspective and a new connection within the built environment.