New Delhi: In an interview with The Sunday Guardian, Vertica Dvivedi, Founder & Director, WADE ASIA, said that the platform was created to celebrate and recognise women-led designs and development in Asia. However, just creating platforms for women is not the solution at all. Excerpts:

Q: WADE ASIA is one of the largest summits in India for women in architecture, engineering and design. Do you think more platforms like these should keep pushing more women to the top?

A: While starting WADE, my intention was only to create a connected community for women in design and to bring the best of knowledge, ideas and inspiration at one place, as input. While as output, we intended to spread the work done by women far and wide, beyond the fraternity and much beyond the boundaries of this nation.

Just creating platforms for women is not the solution at all. Platforms should be built when there is a strong purpose behind creating one. The other requisites are leadership, ability and passion to drive the objectives of the platform. It is most unfortunate to see a lot of platforms mushrooming without even the basic research. I urge women-oriented platforms to be more than networking and marketing of each other’s products and services. The role of platforms should be to connect women to larger markets, to facilitate collaboration within and outside the community, and also to bring in knowledge from across the world to her plate. “Empowerment” is a much abused word and I sometimes refrain from using it. However, what would have meant “being empowered” to me when I was looking for support in the last decade, the same I intend to deliver through WADE ASIA to the sisters in design.

Q: WADE ASIA chose its theme for 2019 annual conference and awards event to be “Women, Water and Workmanship”. What are your views on this?

A: Women are central to WADE. It was created to celebrate and recognise women-led designs and development in Asia. WADE awards are limited to women; however, WADE conference, exhibition and innovations are open to all. The conference goes on for 16 hours, discussing relevant issues in architecture and design. At this critical juncture when the world is reeling with water issues, we couldn’t but pick up “Water” as a key theme for WADE ASIA 2019 to spread awareness about preservation, conservation and restoration of water. WADE ASIA is an event dedicated to promote true talents and craftsmanship, thus “Workmanship” will be focused through WADE workshops, WADE Design Galore, and Matecia Material Innovation. Overall, an exciting show and serious conference await the visitors of WADE ASIA.

Q: What went into the making of WADE ASIA?

A: The sad part was even some of the top women designers who had pushed themselves through various struggles doubted this initiative. Some of the common questions were: “We have come to this position because of our hard work, and all must do the same. Why need a forum?”

Funding was another problem. It is only after four years of success that we have been able to send this message to the market that having a platform for women doesn’t always mean crying for demands and status. It can be a platform for women, which can inspire the world, irrespective of any gender. I emptied whatever savings I had to ensure WADE ASIA sees the light of the day.

The third challenge was execution. My team was small and none of us had ever organised an event. Time was less, funds were meagre, there was no experience while acceptance was a very big issue—under these circumstances, I launched WADE in 2016.

Q: Talking of long working hours, be it in architecture or design, we always have the tendency to picture a man. What it is like for women in male dominated industries?

A: As a woman who is a mother, wife and full-time entrepreneur, I am known in my circle as a workaholic. I have never looked at time while working. As a young girl who reached Delhi just to be an entrepreneur, I knew work was important for me. At the same, I did not want to compromise on my other life goals, be it pursuing a hobby, being a mother who is available for the kids, and spending quality time with my partner. Being an entrepreneur gives me the flexibility of time, which unfortunately a woman who is working for someone else, may not have.

Data shows that the Indian economy remains highly gender segregated even to this date. What is your opinion on this?

My answer is limited to women architects and our exposure as a platform for women in design. According to the last available data, 41% of architecture graduates in the US were female, while only 20% were licenced women architects. In India, there are close to 91,000 architects. You will be surprised to know the ratio of male to female in architecture schools. Today, the numbers of females far exceed men. So, I can surely say that India is going to have more women architects in future.

However, with more than 50% females as students of architecture, when it comes to practicing architecture, 35% men are practicing independently, while only 17% women are self-employed. When WADE ASIA started, the number was a single digit or close to double digits. There has been a huge rise in the number of students studying architecture.

The number of top women architects in India can be counted in fingers. Similarly, when it comes to women architects working in private and government jobs, women who have reached the top are a few. Our research, documentations and talks by various women during WADE ASIA are taken into account for creating formats and plans for future events, which can help more women.

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