Women in Construction Interview - Erica Gaswirth

Erica Gaswirth
Director of Education
PBDW | New York, NY

“The industry must work towards achieving proportional representation of women across all levels and roles, until such diversity becomes the norm.”

As PBDW’s Director of Education, Erica Gaswirth has focused her career on the design of cultural and educational institutions, from early childhood through higher education, and adaptive reuse to new construction.  She also serves on the Board of Directors for the Westchester + Hudson Valley Chapter of the AIA, and on the Building Advisory Committee for the Mamaroneck Union Free School District.

Question: What led you to a career in the construction industry?

I was fortunate in that my high school offered many classes focused on architecture. I first took a mechanical drawing elective, and then a class in residential architecture, where the final project was a suburban development with each student assigned a lot on which to build a model single family home.  I loved the combination of problem solving incorporated with creativity. The next year, I took a retail design class, and I was hooked.  In college and graduate school, I opted for programs that allowed for study in other areas in addition to architecture, so minored in art history, and took some additional courses in historic preservation as well. These subjects have continued to influence my work.


Question: How has the context of being a woman in AEC changed since you started your career?

There has been a distinct change in the number of women in the industry overall since I’ve started my career. It was common for me to be the only woman in meetings, whether with clients and consultants during the design phases, or with contractors out in the field. Now, it’s not unusual for women to be in the majority at these meetings. Additionally, I find that women are now seen in a wider variety of roles than before.


Question: How do you leverage your position to help recruit and retain more women in the industry?

While only formalized in the past few years, PBDW has always encouraged mentorship within the firm. Throughout my career, I’ve been fortunate to learn from talented female leaders, and to mentor and support the next generation of female architects at PBDW. I think that our program is unique because it is tailored to the individual needs and interests of each mentee and mentor, focusing on personal growth and development. This approach has helped women feel supported and more connected to the firm.


Question: What improvements can the industry make to help women succeed in the business?

The industry must work towards achieving proportional representation of women across all levels and roles, until such diversity becomes the norm. While it is great that the industry recognizes and supports women-owned AEC businesses, I look forward to a time when such acknowledgement and quotas for participation are no longer necessary.