Celebrating Women’s History Month: Voices from Vocon

The calendar has turned to March, which means the arrival of Women’s History Month, a time dedicated to recognizing and honoring the invaluable contributions of women throughout history. This year, we’re celebrating not only the impactful career journeys of some of our longest-standing Vocon women but also delving into the perspectives of those shaping our future.

As we spotlight Team members throughout the next few weeks, we aim to instill inspiration, share advice, and commemorate Vocon’s history as a woman-owned business. Join us in celebrating phenomenal women who contribute to the success of Vocon, embodying the strength, diversity, and excellence that Women’s History Month represents.

Read below our Voices from Vocon:

Could you share a pivotal moment or milestone from your Vocon journey that has left a lasting impression on you personally and professionally?

Jana Abdulsamad (Associate | Practice Leader, New York): A pivotal moment in my Vocon journey occurred when I led the Design Team for the One Madison Lobby and Commons redevelopment. This Project was both challenging and rewarding, marking my first time leading a complex Project with numerous stakeholders during the onset of COVID-19. Navigating the shift to remote work and adapting to these unprecedented conditions pushed me to grow both personally and professionally.

Lauren Dennison (Senior Associate | Design Director, New York): Reflecting on my journey at Vocon, one pivotal moment stands out vividly: the expansion of our office in New York. Relocating from our Cleveland office to New York was a profound personal and professional leap. Collaborating with individuals from diverse backgrounds and cultures, all united by our shared vision of creating an inspiring work environment, was truly transformative. This experience enriched me in ways I could have never imagined.

How have you observed the evolution of women’s roles in the workplace since your tenure at Vocon?

Lauren Dennison (Senior Associate | Design Director, New York): Over my nearly 18 years at Vocon, I’ve witnessed a remarkable evolution in the roles of women in business, including within our esteemed woman-owned enterprise. It’s been immensely gratifying to see more women assume leadership positions, witness the rise of strong women entrepreneurs, and observe the increasing presence of women at the decision-making table. This shift towards greater gender diversity and empowerment is both inspiring and empowering.

Jana Abdulsamad (Associate | Practice Leader, New York): Working in a diverse office and for a women-owned company, with a leader who understands the challenges facing women in the architectural and design field, has enabled me to grow, take on more responsibilities, and ultimately lead in my field.

In your experience, how has Vocon’s culture, values, and approach to gender diversity and inclusion transformed over the years?

Lauren Dennison (Senior Associate | Design Director, New York): As Vocon has grown, so too has our commitment to inclusivity and respect for diverse perspectives. Our workplace culture celebrates the unique backgrounds of individuals and I’ve learned a lot! With each new addition to our Team, our tapestry of experiences and cultures becomes richer, fostering an environment where everyone feels valued and respected. It’s a culture I’m immensely proud to be a part of.

How do you feel about being part of a company with a strong commitment to gender diversity and inclusion, particularly as a woman-owned business? How has this aspect of our company influenced your experience and sense of pride in your professional journey at Vocon?

Lauren Dennison (Senior Associate | Design Director, New York): Being part of a company with a steadfast commitment to gender diversity and inclusion, particularly as a woman-owned business, fills me with an immense sense of pride and purpose. At Vocon, everyone’s voice is heard, regardless of gender. This inclusive mindset permeates every aspect of our work, from problem-solving to conflict resolution, ultimately fueling our innovation and success. Together, we embrace diversity and strive for excellence in how we show up each day.

Looking Towards the Future:

From your perspective, are there any new initiatives or strategies you think we could adopt to continue to enhance gender diversity and inclusion throughout the firm?

Erica Hillow (Associate | Senior Project Architect, Cleveland): Vocon is great about hiring to develop and maintain gender diversity and inclusion. Vocon should continue to build the Vocon Values group, as this Team has successfully developed programming to educate the staff on the office’s diverse culture.

Sofia Juperius (Associate | Design Director, New York): Vocon is quite progressive in the systems and strategies already in place to create a gender diverse and inclusive environment. To mention a few, we have gender-neutral job descriptions, implicit bias training, flexible work arrangements, mentorship and sponsorship programs etc. that all facilitate a culture of inclusion. That said, being from Europe where mothers (and fathers) have extended maternity and paternity leaves to fully support working families is something I wish not only Vocon, but all organizations here in America would adopt in the future.

How do you feel about being part of a company committed to gender diversity and inclusion, particularly as a women-owned business? How has this aspect of our company influenced your experience and sense of pride in your professional journey at Vocon?

Erica Hillow (Associate | Senior Project Architect, Cleveland): An inclusive and diverse work environment accommodates a wide range of skills and fosters stronger collaboration. As a result of this dynamic culture, Vocon has adapted to enable a broader group of individuals to succeed in a flexible environment. This adaptability has allowed me to focus on both my family and work, maintaining composure and success in both environments.

Sofia Juperius (Associate | Design Director, New York): I could not be prouder to be part of a women-owned business, especially after becoming a mom. It has influenced both my professional as well as my personal journey in an extremely positive way. Recognizing that no matter the challenges that may arise, the unwavering support of the women leaders around me is truly priceless.

What advice would you give aspiring women professionals who aim to impact their respective industries significantly?

Erica Hillow (Associate | Senior Project Architect, Cleveland): Build a support network and advocate for yourself within the profession. For mothers specifically, don’t underestimate the skills developed from motherhood: patience, empathy, time management, mentorship, among many others. These are hugely important for success within the workplace.

Sofia Juperius (Associate | Design Director, New York): I can think of many but below are some key items that have helped me throughout my own career.

  • Set Clear Goals: Define your long-term career objectives and short-term goals. Having a clear vision of where you want to go will help you stay focused and motivated.
  • Build a Strong Network: (This one has played a major role in my own career). Networking is crucial for career growth. Connect with professionals in our industry through events, seminars, and your daily work (vendors, consultants, brokers and of course clients). Cultivate meaningful relationships and seek mentorship from experienced individuals you are inspired by.
  • Confidence and Assertiveness: Believe in yourself and your abilities. Don’t hesitate to speak up and assert your ideas and opinions. Confidence will earn you respect and credibility among your peers as well as your superiors.
  • Embrace Challenges: Be open to taking on new challenges and stepping out of your comfort zone. Every obstacle presents an opportunity for growth and learning.
  • Seek Leadership Opportunities: Take on leadership roles and responsibilities whenever possible. Leadership experience not only enhances your skills but also demonstrates your potential for advancement within the organization and industry.
  • Support Other Women: Help create a supportive environment for other women in our industry. Mentor younger professionals, offer guidance, and advocate for gender diversity and equality in the workplace.
  • Maintain Work-Life Balance: (It’s taken a long time to master this myself but becoming a mom made it easier). Strive to maintain a healthy balance between your professional and personal life as burnout can hinder your ability to make a significant impact, so prioritize self-care.

Thank you for following along in our Women’s History Month celebration and thanks again to all our participants!