Jill Williams – How A Diversity Of Voices Helps Architecture And CRE


March 14, 2016

IRVINE, CA—Whether diverse in age, culture or gender, a variety of perspectives creates a team that is most forward looking, in architecture and in real estate development as a whole, KTGY Architecture + Planning’s new chairman Jill Williams tells GlobeSt.com. Williams is one of only three women out of the top 35 architecture firms in the US that holds the position of chairman of the board. KTGY’s CEO Tricia Esser and Williams represent the only two women at one of the top architectural firms in the US that holds these two positions. (One national architectural firm out of the top 35 firms has the same woman serving as both the CEO and chairman.) We spoke exclusively with Williams about her new role, opportunities for women in architecture and what makes an architectural firm successful.

GlobeSt.com: Tell us about your new position. 
In my new position, I will continue to run KTGY’s Oakland office, while spending time with other KTGY leaders across the country and in India and collaborating closely with our CEO Tricia Esser. I want to bring to the position more opportunities for young architects to be mentored like I was early in my career. I also plan to continue to bring out the best in our firm, for our clients, for our communities and for the profession of architecture. At KTGY, we say we are continually searching for better and I look forward to growing, moving forward and innovating memorable places.

GlobeSt.com: What are your thoughts about being named the firm’s first female chairman?

Williams: I was very fortunate to make my way into this great organization 25 years ago that provided opportunities to those who were willing to take on challenges. In 1995, I became a shareholder and was able to work with the founding partners to develop new business and understand what it means to be an owner and leader. I was never one to think that my opportunities were limited by being a female, and so I followed my passion to become an architect. I’ve always worked hard and expected a lot of myself (and others). I continually challenge myself to be better and have clients whom I admire and who inspire me every day to raise the bar. That is what I encourage both young women and young men to do.

GlobeSt.com: Has the number of women in architecture grown over the years? 

Williams: Many accomplished women are making their mark, leading firms and teams to extraordinary results. And, with more women entering the field over the past couple of decades, there is likely to be a greater number reaching upper management. At KTGY, we have 14 shareholders, men and women, who want the best for the design field and fulfilling aspirations. With positive work environments, which we concentrate on at KTGY, everyone has the ability to achieve their goals and aspirations.

GlobeSt.com: Do you believe that the field of architecture will continue to offer more opportunities?

Williams: I believe the field of architecture continues to improve because of representation by all those who are influenced by what we do; those who buy and rent the homes we design, men and women alike. There is not a glass ceiling, but there are constant challenges to anyone in the business, and it involves stepping up and taking on those challenges. Our clients want smart, dedicated, and creative individuals. Collaboration is key. In architecture, and in real estate development, a diversity of voices is the basis for collaboration that helps complex projects come together successfully. Whether diverse in age, culture or gender, a variety of perspectives creates a team that is most forward-looking.

At KTGY, we recently met as a leadership group for an annual firm meeting. As the event unfolded, I was struck by the diversity of our leadership team, and how this makes us stronger and allows us to provide superior architectural services that make a difference to the quality of life for the people who experience these built environments.