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Breaking Barriers, Forging Paths: Aahana Miller’s Journey

As a woman in a traditionally male-dominated field, have you encountered any challenges or stereotypes, and how did you navigate through them?
I am lucky to have support from my parents and peers and have had mentors who have helped me along the way. As far as I can remember, my father wished to have someone to take over the practice. He is more than glad to have two daughters who are both architects to fill his shoes. I am happy to say I have not faced blatant challenges or stereotypes. I have also never allowed my gender to define me or my choices.

What inspired you to pursue a career in architecture? Were there any women architects or designers who inspired your career path?
At first, I did not want to be an architect. I was influenced by my mother, a fine artist, to pursue art and design which led me to the Rhode Island School of Design. I apprenticed at SJK Architects with Shimul Jhaveri Kadri and her partners. Then I worked with Brinda Somaya and Nandini Sampat at SNK Consultants. Working under these strong role models influenced me to pursue my Master’s in Architecture.

How can having more women in leadership roles impact the architecture industry?
First, we need to change our perception of female leaders; often strong leaders are seen as dominating. Women in leadership roles are mentors and trailblazers, and young architects need their unique perspectives and knowledge to grow.

In your role, how do you contribute to empowering women within your team or the broader industry?
At our firm, we create an equitable environment for women. We understand their needs and roles are different and support them in any way we can. We create an environment where we try to understand the issues our team faces on a personal level and allow them to speak freely if they have any concerns.

What advice would you give to young woman architects and designers entering the field today?
It surprised me that there are often more female graduates in Architecture but less in the field. If you are determined and focused on a career in the Architecture field, your gender should not define your path.

Are there specific initiatives or mentorship programs you support to encourage women in architecture?
At UPenn, I was part of the Women in Architecture group and it offers a mentorship program; as an Alumni I am a mentor to the PennDesign Architecture students. I am approachable and happy to share insights about the profession.

Architecture is known for its demanding nature. How do you manage work-life balance, especially as a woman in a leadership position?
I was very clear with my father from day one that I wanted to maintain a work-life balance. I am very focused at work and efficient; I believe in working smart. This allows me to manage my time and tasks at hand. I understand there are handovers and deadlines, in which case I have no problem spending time outside office hours, but this is very rare. The firm used to be open on Saturday for half a day. Many of our employees (even men) requested a five-day workweek to spend time with their families. I was finally able to convince my father to give the employees Saturday off which ensures maximum efficiency during the week.

What steps do you think the architecture and design industry can take to promote diversity and inclusion, particularly for women?
I find that in many forums/panels, there is always a gender imbalance, which needs to be acknowledged and addressed. And then to compensate one has to create a special event for women. Overall, as an industry, we need to be mindful of this imbalance and try to correct this bias.

Looking back on your career, what achievements are you most proud of?
My choice of education and work experience has led me to where I am today. Of course, I am also grateful to my parents who have supported me. I think I have a long way to go still so I can’t say what I am most proud of yet.

In your opinion, what emerging trends do you foresee shaping the future of architecture with steel as an integral element of design?
We have been doing many projects with Jindal Stainless Limited. We recently completed their office building in Gurgaon with custom-fabricated steel-clad columns and a shimmering screen. We have also been using Arttdi’nox Stainless Steel kitchens in most of our residential projects. It is a versatile material which can be used in Architecture and Interiors.

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