Panelists Inspire at 2024 Women of Influence Event

Friday, March 22, 2024
By: Tatiana Rodriguez

The seventh annual University of Florida College of Design, Construction and Planning Women of Influence event took place in the John and Anne Sofarelli Family Gallery on Wednesday, March 20, 2024. Nearly 50 students attended the event and had the opportunity to speak with five distinguished female panelists who have succeeded in their design disciplines.

“I grew up with a single mom being the only woman in her field, so it’s inspirational to see that there’s more communication and networking amongst people that can relate to you as women in this industry,” said architecture student Alyssa Greenspan, who also serves as president of the DCP Ambassadors group.

Following opening remarks from Dean Chimay Anumba, Associate Dean for Undergraduate Education and Facilities Nancy Clark introduced the five special guests: Margo Thomas, Julie Holmes, Sheeba West, Lysa Migliorati and Yanah Fischer. After each panelist made brief opening remarks, the event separated into three breakout sessions, as groups of students were able to sit with their new mentors to ask questions about their career path, the professional struggles they have faced and how they have overcome them.

When asked what message she hopes students took away from the event, West, a principal at Dix.Hite + Partners, reiterated the importance of leadership.

“Be a lifelong learner, and embrace leadership,” West told the students. “There is so much opportunity for leadership within and outside of the workplace.”

Many students asked the group for advice on how to be assertive in a male-dominated workplace, as well as the future trajectory of these fields.

“The built environment needs to have a woman’s perspective,” West emphasized. “Many things are designed without a woman’s perspective, and we are half the economy.”

Thomas, an account executive at Siemens, added that she hopes that students left the event with the confidence to be comfortable in their own skin.

“As women who are going into design professions that have historically been mostly male, being themselves is a strength, and their perspective is valuable.”

Following the breakout sessions, Greenspan gave her closing remarks and shared how she and her peers were leaving inspired by the panelists.

A reception followed, where students had the opportunity to converse with these leaders and gain more insight.

“My biggest takeaway is that women need to push women forward,” interior design major Jyslen Archer said. “They explained that we are the ones that are going to change the statistics. We are the ones making the impact and it is in our hands. Their experience inspires us so we can inspire others. It is a cycle of growth for women in the industry.”

Sky Henderson, a landscape architecture student, agreed with those sentiments.

“Seeing a strong community of women in these fields shows me that we can successfully break the barriers of coming into male-dominated workspaces. Their shared experiences of sticking to their profession through the obstacles they had to overcome was inspiring.”

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