On International Women’s Day, a global architecture and design firm Perkins Eastman has elevated three women- Hilary Kinder Bertsch, FAIA, Barbara Mullenex, AIA, and Supriya Thyagarajan, RA- to its Executive Committee. These three leaders are managing principals of the firm’s studios in Austin, Texas, Washington, D.C., and Mumbai, India, respectively. They will join Andrew Adelhardt, Jason Haim, Alan Schlossberg, Brad Perkins, Shawn Basler, Nick Leahy, Jeffrey Brand, Erich Burkhart, and Mary-Jean Eastman on Perkins Eastman’s Executive Committee. Read SURFACES REPORTER (SR)’s complete report below:
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Talking about this exhilarating news, Mary-Jean Eastman, vice-chair and co-founder of Perkins Eastman says, “Hilary (Bertsch), Barbara (Mullenex), and Supriya (Thyagarajan) each bring great leadership skills to this position, We are so pleased to have such strong and capable women. Everyone who comes on the Executive Committee faces a challenge; they have to switch gears and realize it’s about the firm as a whole rather than a single studio or practice area.”
On presenting new leadership roles to the women, Nick Leahy, co-CEO and executive director of Perkins Eastman expresses, “These leaders bring valuable, diverse voices to the conversation, which is important. The more perspectives we have, the better the discussions will be, and the better decisions we can make.”
Throughout the 24 Perkins Eastman studios that employ 1,100+ people around the world, the firm averages approximately 48/52 percent in terms of men/women. In some cases, such as the Perkins Eastman studio in Guayaquil, Ecuador, the scale tips even more toward women. Out of a staff of 24 in Guayaquil, for example, 19 are women.
Of the brilliant trio promoted to the Executive committee, Supriya Thyagarajan has been with Perkins Eastman for eight years and has led the projects of Ashoka University, one of India’s first liberal arts universities. She shatters stereotypes daily. She leads Perkins Eastman’s studio in India in a country where less than a third of women even participate in the workplace. She travels and treks to remote edges of the world in a nation where only 11% of drivers are women. Thyagarajan, who has been with She also led the projects for three All India Institute of Medical Science (AIIMS) healthcare centers in India, orchestrating staff from seven Perkins Eastman studios in four time zones.
To her, being elevated to the Executive Committee is an honor to celebrate. “It’s a positive step for the firm. It’s so reassuring that we’re going in the right direction,” Thyagarajan said, “Women mentorship is something I have always been passionate about, and not only within the firm. We have so far to go and have so many questions like ‘what is a good work/life balance?’ So often, as a woman, you’re making a decision from your gut, rather than from someone guiding you.”
Thyagarajan hopes to champion great exchanges among people in Perkins Eastman’s two dozen studios. “We have to remind ourselves that strong relationships and meaningful interactions are what makes work good,” Thyagarajan said. “I get to represent international offices,” she added, referring to Perkins Eastman’s studios in Mumbai, India, Guayaquil, Ecuador, Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Shanghai, China, and Singapore, Singapore, “That is the most exciting voice I can have with the Executive Committee.”
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Hilary Bertsch, who has 25 years of experience including 11 with Perkins Eastman, was elevated to the College of Fellows of the American Institute of Architects last year. (Only 3 percent of AIA’s 94,000+ members currently hold Fellowships.) She moved from New York City to Texas last year to lead the firm’s new studio in Austin, where she earned her Master of Architecture at The University of Texas.
Talking about her new leadership role on the Executive Committee, she said, “It is an opportunity to design the firm you want to work for; having more female voices is important. This is an evolution of the firm Brad (Perkins) and Mary-Jean (Eastman) started. More than a firm, it’s a community we are building of which I’m happy to play a part.”
Last year, Barbara Mullenex was bestowed with ENR MidAtlantic’s Legacy Award, which honored her “for a lifetime legacy of service, both to the AEC industry and her community.” She has worked at Perkins Eastman in Washington, DC, for the last nine years after owning her own firm, OPX, for 27 years. “I’ve learned over the last two years through my involvement with Perkins Eastman’s DE& I Group how important it is for women and people of color to see people they can identify within the highest positions. They’re often on a harder, more challenging path, and sometimes they get discouraged and lose their way. I never had that (person to emulate) until I met Mary-Jean Eastman. I am honored to be in a position to have people think, ‘If she can do it, I can too,’ ” Mullenex said.
“As architects, we have the great opportunity to create places that become a part of people’s memories, places they want to return to,” Mullenex added. “As a firm, creating a place where people can develop to their fullest potential has become my most inspiring challenge. I am a connector, this gives me more connections.”
Shawn Basler, Co-CEO and executive director of Perkins Eastman, said, “We look forward to the powerful voices and vantage points Hilary, Barbara, and Supriya will bring to the Executive Committee. It will be exciting to see how their leadership will help us continue to grow.”
Perkins Eastman’s Co-CEO and General Counsel Andrew Adelhardt stated, “We owe a debt of gratitude to Mary-Jean and Brad for their vision of founding the firm and their life principles that have guided us this far.”.
About Perkins Eastman
Perkins Eastman is a global design firm founded on the belief that design can have a direct and positive impact on people’s lives. The firm’s award-winning practice draws on its 1,100+ professionals networked across 24 studios worldwide. By keeping the user’s needs foremost in the design process, the firm enhances the human experience across the spectrum of the built environment. For more information, visit www.perkinseastman.com.
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