At Asakura Robinson, a Push Towards Gender Equality in Design

August 26, 2021   /   Office Culture

It’s Women’s Equality Day! We sat down with Founding Principal, Margaret Robinson, and other women leaders throughout the firm to discuss ways in which designers and planners can center women in their work as well as support women in the workforce.

When landscape architect Margaret Robinson began her career, there weren’t many women in the field to look up to. At LSU, she studied under Suzanne Turner—“an awesome, awesome role model”—but when it came to practice she found support in a network of other emerging professionals. “Most of my relationships were with peers who were in the same boat that I was,” Robinson recalls. “There weren’t many opportunities to have someone who was an employer as a mentor—there just weren’t that many women in landscape positions in firms.”

Now, at Askakura Robinson, the firm she co-founded with Keiji Asakura in 2004, women make up 71% of the employees, from Managing Principals to Junior Associates.

“One of the things I’m most proud of, in my entire career, is to be part of a firm that’s really championing women in several professions that have historically been male-dominated,” says Robinson. Something that’s helped attract a diverse pool of professionals is the fact that Asakura Robinson has been mission-focused since the day it was founded. “The impetus to create the firm was to find a way to make a true impact—especially with the public and people who can’t always afford to pay for planning or landscape architecture,” Robinson says.

Over the years, the firm’s growing portfolio—and roster of talent including Managing Principals Hayley Pallister and Alex Miller, and Principals Jessica Krug, Claire Eddleman-Heath, Megan Skornia and Katie Coyne. —has continued to attract future leaders in the field from a variety of backgrounds. To add to the roster of talent we’ve attracted innovative thinkers throughout the firm, including but not limited to, Mayu Takeda and Jessica Williams who work together on our equitable economic development work, and Associate Designer Inmi Moon who works within the firm on climate actions.

“It’s important to have a very diverse leadership, whether you’re talking about gender, race, background, even educational levels,” Margaret explains. Leaders help others and along the way can introduce young women to the design and planning fields.

To celebrate Women’s Equality Day, August 26th, women leaders throughout Asakura Robinson weighed in on the ways designers and planners can center women in their work.

“It is necessary to travel outside of conventional design spaces to fully grasp how we as designers can better center women in our work. Throughout several of my projects at AR, including ATX Walk Bike Roll, (ATX WBR). I’ve had the opportunity to engage with a number of multigenerational women spearheading equitable change across Austin’s underrepresented communities.

While working closely with ATX WBR Ambassadors, I’ve learned from women-led processes, shared lived experiences, and embodied expertise about necessary ways to dismantle formalities around who is and is not a designer or planner. This project has made it further evident that women, and particularly women of color, have consistently advocated for equitable change in the built environment, and it is our responsibility as practitioners in the field to translate their efforts into realized action. We can continue to center women in design work by expanding our definition of what design is.” — Cecley Hill, Planner

“As public realm designers, it’s important to center women in our work as we consider the increased risk and violence that women and non-binary people experience in the public realm. From street and sexual harassment to the sizing and placement of public realm elements, to the demands of motherhood and child rearing placed on women, considering that a majority of our world has been designed for men as a default can be a powerful tool to unlocking simple approaches to inclusive and functional design.” — Meghan Skoria ,AICP, Principal

“I come from a long line of farmers who strongly believed a woman’s place is inside the kitchen. In the 1940’s my great grandmothers took care of the entire household and our farmlands after the untimely death of their partners. Growing up, it was very inspirational to learn about them. At the same time, a generation or two later, many women were still confined to the house by the men in their family in spite of being educated. Coming from a developing country, breaking that kind of stereotype required many years of work from people who believed in women. There is still a lot of work that needs to be done to uplift women, especially those with children who must do multiple jobs to meet their needs.

Today, I am a landscape designer in a developed country and surrounded by talented female designers who uplift other women from various backgrounds and remind me that we can make this world a better place together. From these intergenerational experiences, I believe that design plays a vital role in uplifting women in various parts of the world when we provide them with a safe and economical way to get educated, to work and to move around irrespective of the time, color, financial status, location, and gender. At the end of the day, we always need to remember that like charity and kindness, gender equality begins in our home.” – Anuhya Konda, Designer

Thank you to all our fabulous female employees who continue to push the firm forward!

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