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#BreaktheBias: Empowering Women in Design – Ghazaleh’s story

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Only 17 per cent of professional architects in Canada are women [1]. In acknowledgement of International Women’s Day and as part of our efforts to #breakthebias, we are showcasing some of the exceptional women architects and designers at Kasian. Throughout the month of March we’ll showcase how these women have overcome obstacles, created impactful designs across Canada, and continue to advocate for gender equity.

Ghazaleh Safarzadeh, Project Architect

Originally from Iran, Ghazaleh Safarzadeh pursued her academic studies in 2006. She began in the architectural technologist program at SAIT, and attained her Bachelor of Communications and Masters of Architecture from the University of Calgary. Ghazaleh has over 10 years of  experience in the field and has worked on projects across multiple sectors.  

 

This is her experience as a woman in architecture.  

 

Q: What inspired you to get into architecture and design?  

  

GS: My passion for design, creation and bringing ideas to life inspired me to get into architecture. I started doing oil paintings and creating art from a very young age.  I loved a blank canvas to create something new – something that would last. Architecture in a way is similar, but on a much larger scale, and of course way more complex.   

  

Q: Can you tell me about some of the more meaningful and interesting projects that you’ve had the opportunity to work on?  

  

GS: I would say one of the most meaningful projects I had the opportunity to work on was the Red Crow Community College. This is the first Tribal College in Canada. For us to design a project that was representative of Indigenous culture, we had to collaboratively work with members of the community as well as study and understand First Nation’s history, culture and values. The resulting project makes a very positive impact in the community, as the campus is not only a place for educational advancement, but also a hub for the entire community.

 

  

Q: In honour of International Women’s Day, are there any women in architecture that have inspired you along your journey? Is there anyone you look up to?  

  

GS: I was always inspired by Zaha Hadid’s work. She was a major figure in architecture and also a woman of color with middle eastern roots. She pushed the boundaries of architecture to the next level in a male-dominated field, which is very admirable.  

  

In general, female architects in leadership positions have always inspired me. When I joined Kasian back in 2019, my first observation was the number of women in leadership roles. The potential for growth was a huge motivational aspect for me.    

 

Q: Can you tell us about a time that you faced a major barrier or challenge in your career? How did you overcome this?  

 

GS: I think one of the main challenges for me, and perhaps a lot of other women who are building a career and starting or raising a family, is maintaining a work life balance. It is crucial to find that balance to be present for family members who depend on you and at the same time be able to advance career goals so that opportunities are not missed or jeopardized. For me this is a huge challenge and I find myself struggling at times. 

   

Q: The recent stats say there’s more new grads but less women in leadership positions. Do you have any insight as to why there are so few women in leadership positions and what do you think can be  done to improve these figures?  

  

GS: I would say this is not only limited to our field but women in general are associated with life-related responsibilities such as having kids or raising a family, which forces us to pause or slow down at points in our career and this unfortunately could sometimes hold us back when it comes to career advancements. 

 
I think mentorship from other female leaders who possibly went through the same experience would be very beneficial and encouraging. 

 

Q: How has Kasian supported you in achieving your career goals? 

  

GS: Kasian has provided me with some great training and mentorship opportunities. This might be a great chance for me to thank a few of my mentors at Kasian: Katherine Robinson, Judith MacDougall, Will Craig, Meghan Larway and Esther Rivard-Sirois. 

 

Q: Do you have any advice for women looking into get into the field of architecture?  

 

GS: My advice to not only women but anyone who is looking to pursue architecture, is to get experience and exposure in all aspects of the field. As an architect, you want to be a problem solver, a manager, a team player, or even a salesperson.   

   

It’s sometimes challenging to get this type of exposure in school or even after graduation. Knowing that this skill set is needed along the way will help one to possibly learn some of these facets from other colleagues and professionals.  

   

Architecture is a never-ending learning process. Each project offers new challenges and learning experiences. These projects can be years in the making, and that requires a lot of patience and persistence. I think it’s important to remember to enjoy the process along the way. 

Ghazaleh Safarzadeh has worked on the following projects:

Renfrew Educational Services 

Okanagan Falls Development 

Red Crow Community College 

Lakeshore townhome development 

Music centre rooftop patio 

DIWA Concentration Plant 

Calgary Fire Department 10 

At Kasian, we thrive in a culture of curiosity. Our clients are visionaries, passionate and courageous ― together we achieve results that make a difference to entire communities.  

 

At the heart of what we do are our people.  

 

If you enjoy collaborating in a vibrant and inspiring workplace and are looking for the next step in your career, we’d love to hear from you. 

 

 

[1] Architect at Work, Canada (June, 2021) And the BEAT goes on: Women in Architecture

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