Digital Academy

Episode 3: Discussion "Women Leaders in Design" focuses on female empowerment

20 Sep 2023

The international architecture and design industry benefits from female entrepreneurial spirit and leadership. The discussion "Women Leaders in Design" with Esha Gupta, founder and publisher of Design Pataki from India, Molly McGowan, partner of Ennead Architects from the USA, and Shida Salehi, founder and managing director of Customs Bureau from the UK, made that very clear. Did you miss the online event? Or would you like to listen in again? The recording and a résumé are available here.

On the one hand, the three pioneers stand for fascinating new projects and unique spatial designs with emotional added value. On the other hand, they convince with a strongly collaborative and inclusive leadership style. A mixture that invigorates the entire industry and is ground-breaking for the next generation.

More female empowerment and focus on diversity!

The three internationally active top female designers and architects exchanged views on the challenges, opportunities and successes of women in architecture and design-related fields. They spoke about their different experiences and shared their requirements for the future. The question of whether equality has been achieved was unanimously answered in the negative, although there are of course differences among the individual countries and cultures. Shida Salehi, founder and managing director of Customs Bureau, put it in a nutshell: "There is still a long way to go. Not everyone has the same opportunities. And it is not only up to women to change things here.”

“Everyone is responsible for change. The focus has to be on diversity and appreciation collectively to create a good working environment."

Shida Salehi, founder and managing director of Customs Bureau

According to Molly McGowan, equality has been achieved in the USA in terms of education, universities, schools and workplaces. However, not yet at the top management level. Women are still assigned the stereotypical soft skills.

"I am still some of the few women who is out on construction sites. We need to get away from that and distribute roles and responsibilities equally in the team based on interests, talents and inclinations - regardless of gender."

Molly McGowan, partner of Ennead Architects

In India, many small firms are run by women, while large ones are run by men. Much more development work needs to be done here. And due to the caste system in India, opportunities are very unequally distributed. To this end, Esha Gupta has set up a foundation that specifically supports young women.

"The greater the diversity in the team, the better it is for the creative process."

Esha Gupta, founder and editor, Design Pataki

Together they encourage them to assert themselves with their own visions.


  • To advance professionally, mentorship as well as building expertise in specialised areas is absolutely invaluable.
  • In general, networking beyond the boundaries of one's own industry is essential.
  • In addition, regular exchange with women who are in similar leadership positions in other fields helps.

PSST ... even more on design will soon be available live on site.

Make a note of it: Ambiente will once again be the meeting place of the international designer scene from 26 to 30 January 2024. At various events, the community can network with each other and meet future clients. Exciting new highlights for visitors: In future, the Saturday of the fair will be the Designer Day: five guest designers will create this day and deal with the topic of design from different perspectives. In addition, the designer Elena Salmistraro from Milan is the 'Ambiente Designer 2024'. With 'The Lounge', she designs a special presentation in Galleria 1 that creates a thematic interface between interior design and HoReCa. This is the starting signal for an ongoing project: Every year, Ambiente honours an up-and-coming designer with an exclusively designed special presentation.

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