Organization of Women Architects and Design Professionals

Jean Nilsson, Wendy Bertrand & Mui Ho


In sync with the energy and ideals of the women’s movement, women architects in the San Francisco Bay Area formed the Organization of Women Architects and Design Professionals (OWA) in 1973. Based on a participatory model addressing our founding philosophy, we sought to have women's full contributions in the workplace recognized. We see our professional and personal life as one. The organization has been successful and lasting due to the horizontal and rotating administrative and leadership structure. 

From the beginning we took action to challenge norms of how architecture is practiced, who participates, and who benefits with monthly meetings featuring speakers and discussion, small interest group gatherings, surveys, mock licensing exams, and monthly newsletters. Over time we held exhibitions, conferences, and symposia, and our activities addressed changes in technology, architectural practice, and members’ lifestyles. Marking our thirtieth anniversary in 2003, we launched our website,, where we continue to publish members’ projects, resources, forums, current newsletters, and activities.

Being a small professional organization, OWA provides a place for members to work together, to build professional friendships, to share experiences, to test ideas, and to learn from each other. Just as importantly, we want to remain relevant and flexible for innovation and change as we move into the future.

The organization is very aware of the value of its unique tradition. Keeping old traditions and introducing changes over the decades has been driven by the members’ participation and interests and keep the organization vital. In 2018 OWA is celebrating its forty-fifth anniversary and reflecting on its history.