Perspectives June 23, 2022

International Women in Engineering Day: Q&A with Anna Anastasiou

We spoke to Anna Anastasiou, Senior Urban Designer in our Vancouver studio in celebration of International Women in Engineering Day.

On June 23rd each year, International Women in Engineering Day is celebrated to raise the profile of women in the profession and encourage more girls and young women to pursue careers in engineering.

Anna shares her perspective as a female architect with 17 years of experience in the broader AEC industry. Read more about how she is inspiring and supporting women at Perkins&Will and across the architecture and engineering community.

Design review panel in Vancouver, Canada

Tell us about yourself—as an architect, but also as a human.

I’m a project management professional, licensed architect, chartered planner, and urban designer with over 17 years of management and design leadership experience overseeing multidisciplinary teams in the U.K., Greece, the Middle East, Africa, and Canada.

I’ve been an active mentor in the University of Westminster’s development mentoring scheme in the U.K., as well as a member of the School of Architecture and Cities’ Employability Advisory Board. My work as a mentor is focused on helping young students and encouraging them to pursue careers in the industry.

I was born and raised in Thessaloniki, Greece, and left at the age of 17 to study, explore, and travel the world. I studied architecture in the U.K. and received two master’s degrees in architecture and sustainability. During my working career, I also earned a master’s degree in urban design and became a certified urban planner. I’ve lived and worked in Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Lebanon, Greece, the U.K., and, most recently, British Columbia, Canada.

What drew you to architecture? 

I believe it’s my personality. As a child, I loved studying and creating. I liked challenging myself to solve problems in arithmetic, algebra, piano tones, and other subjects, as well as trying to help people. Drawing also served as a form of meditation for me. It enabled me to reflect and discover myself.

Joining the architecture profession matched my idiosyncrasy. The architect personality type is hardworking, detail-oriented, problem solvers, creative thinkers, lifelong learners, and scientific and multidisciplinary minded.

Leading a client presentation in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia

What brings you the most joy about your work?

Throughout my career, I’ve had a great deal of fun discovering, learning, teaching, and sharing new ways to improve people’s lives, society, and the environment. This exploration is not limited to the built or physical world, but also includes and reflects social aspects in various ways.

Having joined Perkins&Will’s Vancouver studio very recently, I’m astonished to be working in a professional atmosphere that not only supports and delivers design excellence but also elevates justice, equity, engagement, diversity, and inclusion.

Site inspections in London, UK

What are some challenges you faced, and how did you overcome them? 

Preconceptions and gender norms continue to be institutional impediments for women. Women frequently encounter bias in employment, promotion, and appraisal, as well as assumptions such as a lack of flexibility and family stereotypes, among other things.

Another set of barriers that we face as women exists within ourselves. These barriers are the outcome of the society we were born into and have grown up in, which tells us that we shouldn’t have strong voices. Unfortunately, we have a tendency to internalize these behaviors and follow them without even realizing it. No matter where we are in our lives or careers, we should never stop dreaming, being ambitious, and visionary.

How do we support women in the workplace and raise their profile?

We break down the barriers women face. Putting women into leadership positions is one of the best and quickest ways to do this. To get there, we increase women’s chances of developing a sense of self as leaders, being acknowledged as such, and eventually succeeding.

Mentorship and leadership programs are critical for women to develop themselves as leaders. However, research suggests that these methods are insufficient on their own.

Educating people about second-generation gender bias is one of these ways. Another approach is to create a secure environment in which women can graduate to increasingly important responsibilities. Implementing a coaching program or a peer support group where women can discuss and emotionally support one another is crucial. And finally, rather than focusing on how women are perceived, we need to focus on their development as leaders.

Project team discussions in Vancouver, Canada

“We need to create a safe space where women can thrive.”

Design review panel in Vancouver, Canada

What’s the key message you’d like to get across for Women in Engineering Day?

At all levels, unlocking gender diversity is a huge business opportunity. Gender parity has been linked to organizational performance in the form of improved job satisfaction and economic benefits, according to studies. We should appreciate and celebrate our differences while focusing on equality of talent and potential. Women, demand what you deserve!