Christine Castaldo
Director of Architecture
Sunrise Senior Living

After graduating from Pratt Institute with her Bachelor of Architecture degree, her early career included architectural roles with DMJM/AECOM, and principal roles with Garrison Group Architects, JSA Architects, and Director of Housing with Market Square Architects. Today, she is Director of Architecture with Sunrise Senior Living, a national developer of senior living communities across the U.S. and Canada that encourage environments fostering longer, healthier, happier lives.


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

As she tells the story, Christine’s father, a dry wall taper, urged her in high school to become a teacher. It was the intervention of two nuns at her parochial high school who steered her career in a different direction. “I did very well in math and art in high school, and the nuns convinced me that these two gifts qualified me to be an architect. My father was adamantly opposed to architecture as a career and told me I would be overworked and underpaid.”

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

“Little did I know I would be a pioneer when I chose architecture as my career!”
When she attended Pratt Institute of Technology in the 1990s, Christine was one of a handful of women studying architecture, with only one woman instructor.

“Even 10-15 years into my career, it was not uncommon to be the only woman in the room in a project meeting of 20 or more people. It was hard to be heard and sometimes very taxing. I felt that eventually I was respected, and certainly not everyone I came in contact with had a gender bias. But even today, I still have to encourage young women in our industry to speak up, to make themselves heard on conference calls and in meetings!

Today, there are definitely more women in the room, on the project site and more women in higher level positions. It’s not uncommon to find myself in meetings with only women. At Sunrise Senior Living, our VP of Construction and her two Construction PMs are women.

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

I like to think that I lead by example, learning from and leveraging my mistakes. I’ve mentored others in the business over the years and have challenged people by throwing them into the deep end. I have found that women are more likely to ask for help from a mentor, to discuss challenges they’re having. Men do too, but women more frequently seek guidance on everything from how to deal with very demanding clients to how to progress in their careers.

What improvements can the industry make to help women succeed in the AEC industry?

It’s an interesting question. I remember a decade or so ago, there was a big push in the industry to get young women into the civil engineering field. Some female civil engineers were getting out into the high schools and colleges to encourage female students to get into the industry. And now 10 years later, we have a host of women civil engineers, some in leadership positions. So maybe that’s the answer - that those of us who have been doing this for a long time need to go out and spread the word that great careers can be had in our industry.”

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