At 42%, women make up close to half of the accredited architecture program enrollment yet, only 28% of architectural staff today are comprised of women and a mere 17% of architecture partners are women. These statistics alone show that while more women are enrolling in architectural programs today than ever before there is not this same representation in the professional world. This begs the question: Why are women leaving the architectural profession?

A firm’s ability to remain flexible ensures a rewarding experience for the employer and the employee. – Karen Nichols

At the AIA New Jersey’s Design Day, Michael Graves Architecture & Design Principal Karen Nichols shared her own personal experiences in a panel discussion on women in architecture. This conversation tapped into the evolution of workplace culture and the importance of creating a flexible work environment. Karen explains, “A firm’s ability to remain flexible ensures a rewarding experience for the employer and the employee.”

Karen and her two panelist counterparts, Stacey Ruhle Kliesch, AIA and Jaclyn Gazelle, discussed their own workplace experiences and give advice on how to make career advancements through anecdotal tales throughout their careers. At various stages in the profession, the three architects stressed the importance of learning from those around you and how mentorship is a critical part of career growth and personal development. The panelists also explored how the AIA organization itself is a vital resource to those in need of mentorship in creating the next generation of leaders.

Click here to read more about the event.


Karen Nichols, FAIA, Principal and Architect, has been with the firm since 1977. Karen has been an integral member of multiple project teams. She was the Principal-in-Charge for the renovation and expansion of The Newark Museum in Newark, New Jersey, the master plan of the Detroit Institute of Arts, and the Riverbend Music Center in Cincinnati, Ohio. In 2003, Karen was elevated to the American Institute of Architects College of Fellows, in recognition of her outstanding contributions to the practice of architecture. Karen sits on the NJIT School of Architecture Board of Visitors. She has designed more than 35 exhibitions and has edited seven monographs on the work of the firm.