The impression I get sitting down with Emanuela is that she just pushed obstacles away all her life. The sheer power of her will seems to be able to do that.
Emanuela Borri is a RIBA architect in force of Urbanist Architecture in London and she’s one of those people who shifts the energy in a room around her.
“I find we women are more diplomatic and that can make a big difference, to make things happen” she says.
The passion that we feel for our job makes us stronger.
Emanuela always wanted to be an architect and construction is a business that runs in her family.
I never really experienced sexism at work. The big issues to overcome were more about coming from a different country and education system and building a career in the UK.
She thinks that being a woman probably helped her. “At the very beginning of my career it was hard to get my voice heard, even if I had the role” she recalls “but I reckon the issue was the lack of experience”. With time she turned it into a way to improve herself. “Those obstacles taught me how to manage certain situations and learn from them”.
“Maybe that is the difference between women and men at work” she thinks out loud. “we might choose different ways to approach a problem, but there is no difference between men’s and women’s results”.
She talks about the vibe at the studio. She says of her work environment:
I really feel the studio and the directors support me
And if you look at the office, you can see the evidence there, with the majority of the desks occupied by women.
Still, I cannot refrain from teasing this optimism a little bit. Think of the data, think of what is out there for women in this industry.
Emanuela agrees. “I know of friends or ex colleagues who have bad stories to tell” she says “and I myself experienced some awkward moments in interviews.” When something like this happened to her, she steered away from the toxicity and kept looking, she says.
She seems so relaxed and unfazed mentioning those episodes, so I keep pushing. Doesn’t make you angry, I ask, that those things happen?
I am not wasting years of sacrifice and hard work, whatever happens. I always think I will find a way.
She looks me in the eye, and the sheer energy makes me blink. “I would choose this career over and over. I am hungry for more. More challenges, more knowledge. I keep working hard, to move on, to move forward”.
I leave between a hug and two kisses, the Italian way, walking into this strange February spring.
Once again, I leave with a lot of food for thought. Can a woman in this industry have such a simple life? And yet, beyond the things that she said, I finally see it. Emanuela is one of those women who chooses self confidence, who chooses to think she can overcome any issue. Working hard, always learning. Oh yes! I straighten my shoulders, lift my chin, walk into the sunshine, trying to be a bit more like Emanuela from now on.
Gen is managing director and chief of digital strategy in houseUP, leading the company's business strategy. She comes from the tech start-up industry as a product and marketing chief officer