As the mind and voice behind the architectural excellence at Iconic Development’s projects, Samira Rathod urges fellow female professionals to stamp their presence loud and clear
Samira Rathod, the celebrated architect who envisioned and sculpted iconic skyscrapers that decorate the Sri Lankan skies, believes that women in the corporate world need to speak up and make their voices heard. This decade has encouraged female participation in the corporate world, especially in industries they were not conventionally welcomed into.
There has been a promising shift towards defying gender-based career aspirations, and organizations now better understand the value of having women in leadership roles. Samira considers Iconic Developments to be one such organization that gave her space to become the icon she is today and commends its Managing Director Rohan Parikh for being an inclusive leader who continues to expand that space.
Reflecting her role as a female leader
“My affiliation with Rohan Parikh began years before Iconic Developments was in the pipeline. I had designed a smaller project for him and his friends’ years before Iconic Developments was envisioned. Working with the team at Iconic has been one of the greatest episodes in my career, as I experienced true diversity and inclusivity that other organizations promise but fail to deliver.”
“They accepted and respected my opinions. They even had a mutual understanding to give me, as the architect, the last word. This is a truly great attitude that should be encouraged because many developers don’t respect the architect’s advice, especially a woman’s. They bypass your decisions, roll in their ideas, make significant changes, and in the end, the project is not what you had envisioned. I truly appreciate Iconic Developments’ attitude and acceptance towards women in strategizing because you don’t see that everywhere,” shares Rathod.
Further reflecting on her journey throughout the industry, Samira recalls her experience leading multiple projects as a female leader. “I never accepted the stereotypes between one’s gender and their career or job role. It simply did not make sense to differentiate me as a woman and an architect, and there were societal misconceptions about how one operates based on their gender. I operated passionately and candidly and made sure not to use the phrase “Oh, I am a woman, how can I do that?” Limitations should not begin from within us, which was important. In a professional setting, there is nothing that men can do those women can’t, and that kept me going despite any gender-based discrimination that was thrown at me.”
A voice that cannot be silenced
“Working with other organizations, I’ve come across instances where the team on the ground was not used to taking orders from women, especially a perfectionist who wants the best out of everyone. I did not allow excuses, and I did not tolerate mediocrity and never backed down. I openly questioned certain processes and asked for explanations from the C-suite. I also eagerly had a cup of tea with the artisans and labourers, explaining and asking for suggestions. I built relationships and never compromised my beliefs to accommodate anyone’s gender-based bias. In the end, I gained a stellar reputation for being an architect who gets the job done perfectly. You truly cannot silence a voice that has the potential to build skyscrapers from scratch,” reminisces Samira.
Rathod’s expertise spans beyond the drawing board, and she has also influenced the next generation of industry professionals. She is the passionate founder of Samira Rathod Design Associates (SRDA), an architectural and interior practice started in 2000 and has played an instrumental role in driving its growth. The organization now has over 50 clients and 23 team members.
Being the principal architect for Iconic Developments through SRDA, Samira Rathod observes a key takeaway from the organization that she would like to implement at SRDA. “The respect that Iconic Developments shows its architects is incomparable, and I think it’s fabulous. I don’t think architects are always right, but I think they should be provided space to make their case. That space magically seems to diminish if you’re a lady in the industry, but that is not the case at Iconic.”
“For that, I thank Rohan Parikh, a creator, entrepreneur and supporter of making voices heard regardless of their gender. It is something truly commendable that I would like to take back to my organization and teach myself to make my team of architects heard, at my firm, and the boardroom of a client.”
Finally, as an architect who has faced her fair shares of unconscious biases. Samira Rathod thinks that change comes from within. To every young lady aspiring to join the architecture field, she shares, “Do not think you’re a woman and limit yourself; think of yourself as a professional. You will always meet resistance; it is the way of the world because status quo is easier to accept than a truly effective solution.”
“Be your patron, go ahead, and assert yourself. Even if it leads to sleepless nights, financial instability and other challenges, just overcome them. When criticism comes your way, please take it in, process and respond. Be brave, respond, but never react, because criticism can also be a form of learning,” concluded Rathod.