WOW WICE Awards

First published on the NAWIC Website (LINK)

Last Thursday, 19th of May, the winners of the 2016 WICE awards were announced in a beautiful ceremony at the Hilton Southwalk in London.

The European Women in Construction and Engineering awards, is an annual event set up by Zars Media to raise the profile of those women who are doing a great job within our industry.

Cristina Lanz-Azcarate, London and South East Chair for NAWIC was a judge for this year’s edition and she has agreed to narrate her experience , as an insider, here:

“ When I was asked to be a judge at the 2016 WICE awards, I was very touched.

As a woman fully dedicated to the industry, since I took upon myself to join the world of architecture, I have been lucky to work with some remarkable women who kept telling me how impressed they were with my work ; while being completely unaware of how incredible THEY are.

During the many years I worked in commercial practices and particularly since becoming a Regional Chair for NAWIC, in 2013, and a mentor in the Fluid Programme, in 2014, I have taken upon myself to help shine through the many examples of concealed talent I have found.

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In fact, one of my 2016 targets as Regional Chair (having created a calendar of industry wide awards which we ended up publishing on IWD) was to arm women with the tools necessary to enter professional awards without the need for their company’s permission.

Imagine my surprise when i received an email from Afi Ofori MD of Zars Media inviting me to be part of the judging panel at the WICE awards 2016!

Given that the female representation within the construction workforce is still minoritarian, I feel that it is important to make sure that credit is given where credit is due. Not only to motivate and encourage those who already form part of the industry but also to inspire those looking from the outside to set goals and identify themselves with the winners.

The judging had four stages:

  1. The marking up of the written submissions
  2. The judges dinner
  3. The interviewing on judging day and
  4. The celebraton on the awards night.

Here are some notes from each stage which I feel compelled to share:

The marking up of the written submissions

This was a very interesting process. During the recession and also on my last year at CZWG I contributed to many award, framework and funding applications, and although I learnt a few things along the way, it has been very insightful to be “on the other side”.

From reading the submissions of my categories, the lessons I’d like to to share are as follow:

  • Writing a submission takes longer than you think.
    • Make sure you leave enough time for it
  • Chose the category correctly to give yourself the best chance.
    • Sometimes your role and strengths are not on what you studied
  • It is very important to read and understand the questions
    • only then you will showcases the real you.
  • Chose your sponsors carefully to paint a complete picture
    • if possible choose a senior member of your team and an external client/consultant/etc
  • Write clearly and don’t waffle.
    • The judges have to read a lot of entries and clarity is key to remember/judge achievements

The judges dinner

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(Photo by Zars Media)

This was a fantastic opportunity to get to know those i was to share this experience with. It gave me a chance to meet face to face people I admire and who i had only met via twitter, as well as some truly inspiring people who, due to geographical limitations, I would not have met otherwise.

Speaking to such a positive group of senior individuals from key industry leaders, made me feel hopeful for the future of our industry.

The interviewing on judging day

My categories were Woman Architect and Woman Architectural Technician and given that the Most Distinguished Winner was also the Winner of the Woman Architect category, you will be able understand how humbled i was by the caliber of finalists i met through the process.

(Photo by Paul Grace of Carol Stitchman Best Woman Architect and Most Distinguished Winner)

It is worth mentioning is that unlike architectural awards for and by architects, the WICE awards allowed women architects working client side or as part of a large team to shine under a category which would usually be off limits.

This made me particularly happy because ,over the years working as an architect, I have met truly remarkable people (women and men) who have not been credited for their contribution despite their commitment for the duration of the works.

Such a scenario is most common in practices where, to the rest of the world, there is a single visible head. Two years ago, while at CZWG, we made a collective submission to the AJ Women in architecture awards to make this point…but given that we never heard from the organisers, I can safely assume that the point was lost in translation.

My judging partners , Clare San Martin (Partner at JTP) and Brian Eckersley ( Director at Eckersley O’Callaghan Structural Design), shared with me a long yet thoroughly enjoyable day. They were great judging partners and we had very honest discussions along the way. I really appreciated their honest input.

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(Photo by Paul Grace)

The process must be fair, since you are essentially validating someone’s work and you are expected to consider the impact that your decisions will have on them and the other candidates. And so the three of us decided to set a simple strategy to endeavour to make the best possible decision:

  1. Prepare a handful of questions to ask all candidates
  2. Take notes while they speak about their work
  3. Ask specific questions about their presentation for them to relax
  4. Follow with the questions you will ask to all candidates
  5. Score with a pencil first.
  6. If you don’t like something don’t be hasty, consult your parter judges to make sure you have not misunderstood
  7. Review all candidates the end of the day to make sure you have been fair with everyone

The celebration on the awards night.

The awards evening was extremely different to any award evening I have previously attended. Usually as a rare minority and surrounded by men, I have been in many award ceremonies and more often than not found them awkward. From the insipid entertainment to questionable food, i have generally limited my interaction to those around my table.

To Zars credit, however, the atmosphere at the WICE Awards was completely different. Relaxed, unpretentious and fresh . It had one purpose only and that was to make sure the finalists enjoyed the evening and created memories to take away.

Hats off to Afi and her team for that.

Key note speaker, Sandi Rhys Jones brought a mixture of humour and wisdom to the night with memorable quotes such as:

  • “The world is changed by those who turn up… and speak “
  • “Retention , retention, retention: find talent, manage it and dont let it go”
  • “Remember, children of working moms turn out just fine… specially girls”

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Acrobats fell from the sky, beatboxers in “need of a dollar” were”happy” to be there too and words such as “Spanx” appeared in speeches.

I had a very enjoyable company during the dinner and even managed to catch up with quite a few people between the dinner and the awards.

The memory that I will take away is that of the smiles of winers and finalists and the pride on the judges and employers eyes when looking at those they rooted for.

Having spoken to a few finalists who did not end up winning, I saw how much this process can help build someone confidence and so, before the end of the year our region will make sure that we provide more women the tools to put themselves forward and acknowledge their own achievements.”

Cristina Lanz-Azcarate is the London and South East Chair for NAWIC

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