Leadership through compassion:
an interview with 2019 Sho-Ping Chin WLS grant winner
by Graciela Carrillo, AIA, LEED AP BD+C
Gloria Kloter, AIA, NCARB, CODIA
Kloter is a registered architect and interior designer in Florida and in the Dominican Republic. With over 15 years of combined national and international experience, Kloter excels in multiple fields. She established her firm in 2009 in the Dominican Republic, specializing in commercial and retail interior architecture. Kloter and her projects have been featured in nationwide Dominican newspapers and architectural journals including Arquitexto, HOY, Lístin Diario, Diario Libre, and Arquitectura Radial.
Kloter came to live in Florida in 2015 and has been working since 2016 at Studio+, where she is a Project Architect. She has been working with health care, assisted living, and memory care facilities, office buildings, K-12, and commercial projects.
Driven by her passion for architecture and her community, Kloter serves as the Associate Director of AIA Tampa Bay where she revived the Women in Architecture Tampa Bay chapter and co-created Young Architects Forum Tampa Bay, serving as the chair of both committees. For several seasons, she also has volunteered for Architecture in Education, an eight-week program in which professionals teach fifth-grade students about architecture. Gloria has also recently been promoted as the NCARB’s Architect Licensing Adviser for AIA Florida. Because of her leadership and passion for supporting others, Kloter was honored with the 2019 Sho-Ping Chin Women’s Leadership Summit Grant, a recognition for mid-career female architects who are advancing toward leadership roles and making a positive impact within their communities.
The grant funded Kloter to attend the Women’s Leadership Summit (WLS) in Minneapolis Sept. 12-14 — a unique event where women in the AEC industry can network with other women from around the country in a professional setting. Themed “Reframe, Rethink, Refresh,” it brought over 750 women from the architecture and design industry together, participating in a welcoming ceremony; actively listening to keynotes and storytellers; interacting in workshops and seminars; and taking tours of local architecturally significant facilities. I asked Kloter about her WLS experience.Graciela Carrillo (GC): Reframe. How did your interest in architecture first develop? Gloria Kloter (GK):
My family and I grew up with a lot of financial limitations, and I always dreamed of building a house for my mom. That idea sparked my interest in the construction industry, but it wasn’t until a friend of mine started studying architecture that I realized I had talent and passion for it. She was struggling with the homework they assigned to her in the school of architecture, but I remember being fascinated and excited by every single one of them. She ended up changing careers, and she’s now a very successful psychologist, and I ended up becoming an architect. My master’s is in architecture of interiors, and most of my independent projects back in the Dominican Republic were heavy on interiors, tenant improvements, and renovations for commercial and retail spaces. I love being able to do both, architecture and interior design all together.
GC: Rethink. Only 17 percent of principal or leadership positions are occupied by women. After attending the summit and hearing about diversity, inclusion, and professional growth, how do you think we can diminish that gap?
GK: I recently learned that one of the reasons why women in our industry struggle to escalate in their careers is because of the time factor. A lot of women stop their careers in part or in full at some point of their lives, especially when they start a family, which hurts their career timeline. As Mary Margaret said during the WLS: “Many of us carry the burden of ‘women’s work’ in our homes and our relationships as the primary caregivers for children, parents, and loved ones, and in the workplace, as the party planners and client consolers … when all any of us want to do is to show up and do the work — the work of architecture.” This is very true and concerning. I believe there are ways we can contribute to change these facts for good. We need workplaces with more inclusive cultures, where the importance of diversity is clearly understood so it becomes the norm, and we also need to create more flexibility and opportunities to balance work with family. Working remotely should be more common (which would minimize commute time), as well as workplaces who offer daycare directly through the company to facilitate logistics and to solve many other challenges that women face in a daily basis while trying to balance their professional careers and their personal life.
GC: Refresh. What is your biggest takeaway from the WLS?GK:
My biggest takeaway was from the storytelling by Shannon Christensen. She was far along in her pregnancy, sharing her story on stage in front of over 750 women and said: “You can be successful in all three at the same time: a mother, an architect, and a leader.” I used to think that I needed to give up on at least one of the three. It was very inspiring to listen to her story. GC: How did you find yourself in a leadership position?GK:
To be completely honest, I never pursued anything to be in a leadership position. Due to my personality and willingness to help others, I’ve been offered so many opportunities that have led me to become a leader at a local, national, and international level. I genuinely enjoy lifting up those who are around me. Every time I’ve been given a leadership position, it started with me giving to others first without expecting anything in return. My lead pastor, Greg Dumas, once said at church: “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care,” and this has become my motto. GC: What advice can you give to other emerging women in our industry, in regards to being a leader?GK:
Care for others, don’t be a positional leader. According to the book “Five Levels of Leadership” by John Maxwell, this is the lowest level of the five, and as a positional leader, people will follow you only because they have to, not because they want to. There are so many positional leaders out there who use their title to abuse their power instead of helping those around them thrive. Try to educate yourself about what good leadership truly means and how you can grow into higher leadership levels with each individual. One of my favorites is Level 4, people development, because at this point, you are a leader because of what you’ve done for others.
Graciela Carrillo, AIA, LEED AP BD+C
Carrillo is an Architect at Cashin Associates, P.C., in Hauppauge, N.Y. She is the AIA Long Island Chapter President-Elect, and recipient of the 2019 AIA NYS Young Architect Award and 2017 Sho-Ping Chin WLS Scholarship.