Canna Patel Chairperson HCP Interior Design Pvt. Ltd.
When I was entering the architecture industry, in the early 90s, there was a large and vocal opinion that women were simply not able of working at the same level as their male counterparts. Thus, the few women in the industry felt it necessary to work in a stoic, traditionally masculine manner, the idea being to prove that they could design like men, like designers at the time were expected to. This is a tragedy. How are we supposed to offer our full worth when we are not allowed to be ourselves? Today, the majority of design graduates are women, the field is changing fast.
I often find that the best way to share my knowledge is to share, in part, my life and while my experiences will be very different to yours, you may still gain something from them. My approach to working life can be split into three core concepts: Manthan, Mantra and Mauj.
Manthan literally means deep contemplation aimed at concluding an issue. It describes how to deal with inner dilemmas. By learning to think in depth about my issues I can better understand them and with that understanding, conclude them.
As women, we are forced, to follow non-linear career paths; we cannot expect constant, driving progress. Inevitably our careers will be wrought with interruptions, our domestic pressures generally outweighing those of men. We are expected home in the evenings to prepare food for our families; we must care of our children. Our time is always in high demand from both work and home. In this respect our male counterparts enjoy a greater freedom.
I have never managed to split my energy fifty-fifty between the demands of work and domestic life; the balance will constantly shift in favour of either side. However, I am careful not to allow one side to consume the other entirely. One should always be working on something,but should also have a little time allotted for friends, family and most importantly self.
Mantra is the philosophy, a way of thinking and acting that underlines your life. Throughout my career I have directed myself with a variety of mantras. One of them is, that it is often far more productive to focus on reaching short term goals rather than waiting for one big moment. Humans, after all, walk by placing one foot in front of the other again and again.
When I was starting out in interior design, I realised that to become successful it was crucial to get published in magazines. Thus, publication became my short-term goal to present my work instead of waiting for someone to notice me.
Never be afraid to blow your own bugle, to display confidence in your work. Likewise, when presenting to clients I will always make known the quality of my work. Too often women are afraid to be sure of themselves. This is not a valid approach to marketing.
It is hugely important to be self-motivated and energized. You must be prepared to acknowledge your weaknesses while holding the will to improve upon them. During my early career, I would often attend design expos and exhibitions to try and learn from the work of others. It is always worthwhile to experience viewpoints and approaches to design that differ from your own. Since there has, until recently, been a lack of female mentors in design, I often find myself discussing my work-related dilemmas with successful women in different fields entirely. One can expect to find insight in surprising places.
Mauj means fun, entertainment and leisure. For me this often ties into my work -I am fortunate enough to have a career in something that I love. I love to teach; you would never believe how much you can learn from teaching.
I also enjoy gardening and live dance performances. Holidays as well are a huge part of any successful work ethic. Exhilarate yourself, do things you might otherwise not and above all enjoy the small things. A happy designer, more often than not, is a good designer.
It is more than possible to be a successful woman in architecture. A woman must juggle domestic and work related responsibilities with great finesse while also finding time for herself. Above all, never stop dreaming, despite what others might tell or want from you, you hold ability to succeed. Allowing what others expect of you to govern your aspirations is to surrender yourself to those not willing to acknowledge your potential. It is perfectly possible for a woman to be both an architect and herself.