Women in Design Award

Sally Levine

In the late 1990s, Boston Society of Architects (BSA) President Rebecca Barnes created the Women in Design (WID) Network to re-energize architecture’s focus on women.  In 2000, Gretchen von Grossman transformed this monthly conversations program into the first Women in Design Conference, an event that has grown each year since then. The same year, I proposed a WID awards program, even though I thought the last thing the architectural field needed was another award. However, I recognized that women were still underrepresented in most awards programs.

Over several months, I met with many women from the building professions, both in groups and one-on-one, to ask them their definition of success, their thoughts on what made for a successful career, and what they thought was worthy of recognition. The results of our research and conversations were summarized in the four Ps—the four criteria developed for the WID Award of Excellence:

  • Person A living person who works and/or has worked in the New England area. Ethical, confident, exemplifies exceptional excellence. 
  • Process Shares responsibilities and information, cares for others’ well-being.
  • Product Demonstrates exceptional excellence, reflects process.
  • Position Affects change in the design community and the public at large.

Over the years the selection committee has awarded architects, landscape architects, interior designers, writers, educators, advocates, artists, graphic designers, engineers, and community leaders. We decided that the best way to assure that we live up to our commitment to inclusivity was to present the award to more than one person each year. This decision allowed us to celebrate the many ways individuals contribute to the built environment. In contrast to the one-person award, recipients of the WID Award often have expressed how honored they feel to be in the company of that year’s cohort.