women’s history month 2023

During this Women’s History Month, we are reflecting on the advancement of women in lighting by celebrating some of the rockstars that make up our community. To kick things off, we’re sharing eight (8) short interviews with WILD women from around the country that we think you should know better. They are business owners, artistic entrepreneurs, diversity champaigns, working mothers, and environmental activists. We hope you are inspired by their stories as much as we are!

Of course, it was hard to pick from so many amazing women in the industry. We know the power of sharing each other’s stories: they can provide a spark of encouragement, create a new connection, and become the stepping stone for progress. So, if you’re sharing some amazing news or celebrating a friend’s accomplishments – tag us so we can celebrate too! We want to spread the word about how incredible all the members of our WILD community are.

LinkedIn: @women in lighting + design (WILD)
Instagram: @womeninlightinganddesign
#wildmembernews #womensupportingwomen

Name: Leela Shanker
Role(s): Founder, The Flint Collective NYC
Lighting Designer, Borealis Lighting Studio

What do you envision for the future of lighting?
In the future, we will focus as much on Day 2 and Day 0 decisions as Day 1 operations. We are practicing in a fascinating time, when all our training as designers (of experiences and products) has grown in scope. We continue to be consumed by the challenge and opportunity of deciding how to apply light to our environments for the health and wellbeing of our communities. Simultaneously, it has become a matter of professional integrity to understand the impact of our practice on energy and material systems. This takes time – to retrain and evolve our current practice – but it is needed, and in future will be part of the construction cycle rather than an optional exercise. I am proud to be part of a collaborative industry. Lighting is providing an example to other sectors of the construction industry on the potential we hold when we work together toward global approaches to measuring and reporting on life cycle impacts. With this information we will be better placed to return to critical investigations of designing based on luminance-based material interactions rather than focusing on the efficiency of the source. In future we will address Sufficiency rather than Efficiency and consider “What does less look like?”.

How did others help or create challenges in your career?
I have been fortunate to have mentors throughout academia and professional practice who have fueled an ongoing process of learning, knowledge sharing and professional growth. Brooke Silber, Head of Lighting at Borealis Lighting Studio (within BR+A) is a leading light I have been grateful to learn from in her generosity and vision to foster individual development and industry progress.

What advice would you give to other women in lighting now?
I would say, take a little time away from billable hours to define your values as a current practitioner, identify people who share those values, and work with them to put those values into play. For me, founding the Life Cycle Assessment Incubator of the GreenLight Alliance has been an opportunity to create community around areas of practice that were both unchartered and needing maps. It’s been hugely rewarding to find and collaborate with peers of the same ilk.

Name:  Terri Lux
Role(s): Co-Owner, Impact Architectural Lighting

How did you get involved in the lighting industry?
Like most people, my path was not straight. I was pre-med in college but decided not to pursue medical school. After graduation, I went to work for my next-door neighbor who owned an architectural salvage company and started making reproduction lighting when the historic preservation movement came into being. I worked for that company for 20 years, moving from incandescent, through metal halide and compact fluorescent, before striking out on my own with my business partner, Barry Scott, and starting Impact Architectural Lighting in 2005. We have been in business building Performance Architectural Lighting pendants and ceiling mounted fixtures ever since.

How did others help or create challenges in your career?
In my first job, I was very fortunate to have a boss who treated me as an equal. He listened and valued my opinions. He mentored me and helped me to grow. After my husband and I had our first child, he and his wife decided that I should bring the baby to work with me. I kept my son with me in my office. This arrangement actually made me MORE productive. As our family grew, I brought each child to work with me for his/her first year which allowed me to focus on my work.

Name: Faith Jewell
Role(s): Lighting Design, San Diego Studio Lead + Assistant Vice President | Property and Buildings, WSP

How did others help or create challenges in your career?
So many wonderful people have supported me through the years both helping and challenging. I am particularly thankful for all the challengers. Early on it was my managers at HLB who recognized my design talents but really pushed me to focus on getting my organizational skills on track. It took hard work on my part, but am always thankful for that early push that taught me the lesson that no matter what type of task you are working on approaching it with the mindset of a business owner is the path to success. 

Currently my biggest help is my four-year-old daughter. Right now she is working on “frustration management”.  I am always reminding her that frustration is one of the signs that you are learning something new. We often discuss that frustration isn’t a negative thing, the goal isn’t to eliminate it, we must learn to manage our frustration so we can continue growth 😊 One of the amazing things about being a parent is what we are often teaching are children are the same lessons we need to hear!

What do you envision for the future of lighting?
My hubby works at a large tech firm that keeps a futurist on staff. One of my recurring daydreams is what I would talk to the futurist about if we ever had dinner? I always go back to telling the story about the class I took at Wismar taught by Harald Hoffman (one of the original authors of the Erco Handbook of Lighting Design.) He told us that with great architectural lighting, you walk into the space, the first thing noticed should be how great the space feels and not the lighting fixtures or methods. The mission is timeless, quality lighting in our architectural environments that is visually comfortable, ideally makes people feel great, with least amount of negative environmental impact possible. To me the future of architectural lighting should be about using new and evolving technologies like smaller sources, cleaner sources, technical optics, to continue to achieve the mission.  I would love to start seeing more education around Luminance and Glare metrics for our industry partners like Engineers, Architects and Owners, so we can start to collaborate more wholistically to design healthy comfortable illumination in our environments.

What advice would you give to other women in lighting now?
Back to my 4 year old daughter, who is obviously an avid Paw Patrol fan.  Paw Patrol, usually drives me crazy, but recently they introduced a set of characters called the “Cat Pack”. The leader of the Cat Pack is none other than “Wild” Cat. The first episode I caught Wild Cat in she is on her motorcycle participating in an Evel Knievel stunt style moto-cross competition. Right before she goes for each trick or jump she gives herself a little self-talk routine and says “I can do this, I can do this, I CAN DO THIS!” and then she goes for it.  It has been a great tool for my daughter, times like going down a slide at the playground that is steep or even trying a new unfamiliar food we can often be heard chanting together “I can do this!” So I guess this is my advice, the challenges of being a woman in any business are real, positive self-talk is powerful (especially when shouted aloud), and “We can do this!!!”.

Name:  Lauren Dandridge
Role(s): Principal, Chromatic Inc
Adjunct Assistant Professor, USC School of Architecture

What advice would you give to other women in lighting?
My advice to women in the industry is to trust your instincts. Sometimes women get flack for being emotional or looking for things that aren’t there, but every time I have trusted myself and my gut, I have won. Now, I have also second guessed myself and allowed my fears to get the better of me after that decision (I’m still working on that), but, generally,  my instincts are undefeated. Trust yourself.

Do you have a female role model within our industry or in general?
My role model is Eileen Thomas. She hired me in a down economy with not a ton work experience but recognized a willingness to learn and get better. She is incredibly patient and may be the best lighting designer I have ever met. I completely want to be like her when I grow up.

Name:  Erin McDannald
Role(s): CEO, Lighting Environments
Environments INVENTOR of the Metaverse workplace Elevated Environments (patent pending)

How did you first get involved in the lighting industry?
I began my career as an interior designer and have always had a defined interest in lighting. After an internship with a lighting designer, I knew for sure that I had found my path. I have always been drawn to the experiential nature of lighting, and that very appreciation still drives me and my work.

What are you passionate about right now in lighting?
I believe that lighting is an essential part of our experience as humans and a key element of the digital layer. I am passionate about unlocking all that our industry can do. As our workforces and communities embrace digital and hybrid models, lighting design is ever-important. Wherever we create experiences, lighting plays a crucial role. The digital layer is creating incredible growth in every business sector, so digital lighting experiences should be top-of-mind.

What advice would you give to other women in lighting now?
I would encourage women to confidently unravel the social norms we’ve been told to follow. As we rewrite the narratives that ask us to be sorry, own who you are and what you deserve. Women bring a natural sense of compassion to our work, and with that, we have the power to transform.

Name:  Karen Jess-Lindsley
Role(s): CEO, Lindsley Lighting

What are you passionate about right now in lighting?
I believe that the lighting industry needs to embrace sustainable manufacturing as a standard. It should not be seen as exceptional or extraordinary. If the industry shifted to sourcing sustainable materials, including Red List Free wire, it would increase demand and drive down costs from suppliers.

Sometimes we make it too hard for manufacturers to make a positive contribution. Declare labels, EPDs and HPDs are wonderful standard, but daunting. If all lighting specifiers demanded, and manufacturers adopted RoHS as a sustainability standard, we could make an immediate and significant contribution toward reducing toxic chemicals and embodied carbon in luminaires.

End users should not have to pay a premium for sustainably-made products. There are a lot of innovations in sustainable building materials and lighting needs to contribute to buildings that are healthy for people and the plant. We owe it to the next generations.

What advice would you give to other women in lighting now?
1. Find your voice-and use it to make a difference.
2. Find ways to support and elevate other women in the lighting world.

Do you have a female role model within our industry or in general?
Ruth Bader Ginsburg is a beacon for me. Throughout her life she demonstrated passion, intelligence, professionalism, compassion and an unwavering commitment to elevating women. Her personal relationships were also inspiring. She juggled being an equal partner in her marriage, a loving mother and a supportive friend, even with people she didn’t agree with. And, she had a great sense of humor! I think we all have the capacity to make a difference. Justice Ginsburg showed how one person can make a difference, and inspired subsequent generations of women. I aspire to find small ways to do the same.

Name:  Paula Martinez-Nobles
Role(s): Studio Director & Principal, Fisher Marantz Stone

How did others help or create challenges in your career?
I’m extremely motivated by a tough challenge, some people would call that stubborn, I have grown to think of it as dedication.  

I am a first generation Colombian-American. My parents came to this country, to New York and Philadelphia in their 20’s. They confronted more obstacles than we could ever imagine – nothing I face can compare. How can I not take on a challenge with the same passion and long term view that they did in the 70’s? Of course I do.

Challenges, obstacles, hurdles, are all about your perspective. I try to focus on the ”thing” beyond the hurdle…

My fears and doubts when I started my career circled around “I don’t sound professional enough”,  “am I smart enough to work with this crowd?”, “is my Philly showing”. of In my quiet-determination stage in my career, I was hungry; I needed to convince myself I was smart enough, so I observed, asked questions, listened with intent, and worked hard.  

Being curious and authentic is infectious and magnetic – and fortunately for me it attracted mentors (they didn’t necessarily know it at the time) but they were building me up little by little – helping me clear my personal hurdles. 

I started to discover my super power when I ramped up my  site visits, managing contractors meant that being bilingual and one of the “señoritas” helped tremendously… so did my “Jenny from the block” attitude. What I thought were my hurdles became an asset.  

I have three daughters. I never could have predicted the clarity and decisiveness that one begins to develop in the workplace as a result of being a parent.  It didn’t start that way though – I was riding high with my latina super powers and discovered I actually couldn’t do it all.  There’s no such thing as being a perfect parent, a perfect wife and a perfect employee. When one takes the other two gave way. 

Early commitment to my team, dedication to working alongside of them meant that we built a foundation together to support the clients, support the projects, and support my maternity leave. There is tremendous pride that comes from supporting and then watching strong women you coached come into their own and do your job even better than you can.  The clarity to let go comes from parenting fundamentals; you can’t tell if your kid can walk on their own until you let go of their hand. And when they fall, you help dust them off and try again – you continue to watch every step, quietly celebrating every accomplishment. 

Trusting in my team, having the clarity to see what they were good at and what they still needed support on made it easier to juggle two things in my life that make me feel fulfilled: my family and my career.  It is important for me, as a professional and a woman, to have my now teenage daughters read articles about projects their mom worked on and watch be throw my cape on…ahem – my hard hard and vest on.   

What motivates you to be involved in WILD?
From quiet determination to assertive perseverance – this current stage of my career, 18 years later, has come with a platform.  One that I don’t always love to stand on with a mic, but am honored to hold; I am motivated by my peers to continue a reputation of developing diverse talent, and a legacy of illuminating beautiful, timeless projects, I am motivated by young designers, they need to see that self confidence can be nurtured, and everything mocked up for their own edification, and most of all I’m motivated by my three daughters, they need to see women succeed.  Pass the mic.  

Do you have a female role model within our industry or in general?
There is an Architect that is a woman and the owner of her firm.  She is not afraid to seek and demand perfection in every finish, every detail, and every light fixture. Her demand for excellence from the newest member of the project team and consultants thru the highest levels of the client team is infectious.  It raises the bar across the board. She has taught me by example, that it takes a team to build an excellent project; everyone has a critical role to play.  I relish in the challenge.  I carry that mantra with me through design, training, and leading. 

Name:  Rachel Fitzgerald
Role(s): Principal, Discipline Lead, Lighting, Stantec
Adjunct Lecturer with the University of Colorado at Boulder

How did you first get involved in the lighting industry?
I wanted to be an architect and my dad (an engineer) wanted me to be an engineer… so we compromised, and I studied Architectural Engineering at the University of Colorado.  Through the curriculum and tutelage of my great professors (Bob Davis and David DiLaura), you could say, that I found the light!  Ha!  But in all honesty, I loved the blending of the science with the art and creativity of lighting design. 

What are you passionate about right now in lighting?
The future of our industry is what excites me the most right now.  There are always cool design challenges, and I love those.  But I’m most passionate about growth – both the growth of our industry but also of the individuals that are emerging and finding their way into our field. 

What advice would you give to other women in lighting now?
Find your own way.  Follow the path that feels true to you.  The road that I took likely won’t be the same road that you take.  Connect with mentors and a peer group; as the saying goes, it takes a village, and the support of those people can go a long way.  Whichever road you follow, know that there is a whole network of women (and men) in front of you that want to help pull you up to be successful and find your way within lighting.  

Do you have a female role model within our industry or in general?
My role models are my peers and my friends.  The other women doing the grind with me day after day.  Wearing multiple hats (lighting designer, professional, volunteer, wife or significant other, mother, friend) and striving every day to be the best that they can be in life for all the people that they touch… and trying to maintain balance and sanity while doing it.

Leave a Reply