Co-founder of SuMisura

Armed with a Bachelor of Arts degree, a keen eye for design, and the determination of an athlete, Angela Lim embarked on her journey in interior design in 2002. Drawing from her experiences working alongside designers from the UK and Japan, Lim established her design studio, SuMisura, in 2009.
Lim’s visionary leadership has since propelled SuMisura to the forefront of the industry. The studio’s portfolio boasts an array of acclaimed designs, spanning from luxurious condo show units to integrated developments, penthouses, bungalows, and private residences. Notable projects include Le Nouvel KLCC, 3 Orchard by the Park, D Leedon Garden Villa, South Beach residences, Bishopsgate Residences, and the Sky Suite at One Shenton, Singapore.  
Have you encountered any specific challenges unique to being a woman in this field, and if so, how have you addressed them?
I take comfort in the fact that design is a very visual profession and that’s the advantage that every woman has. People can tell when the design is good and the creator — whether male or female — will be recognised for the work. 
There is clearly an under-representation of women in the entire design & build industry since the decision makers upstream (such as builders, developers, and clients) and the tradesmen downstream are primarily males. [This also leads to] less effective communication between the genders, across the supply chain, which can affect productivity. While gendered communication isn’t an exact science, men and women frequently have different communication styles. 
Fortunately, I have found, during the course of my work, that reminding the genders about their innate differences (with some humour) while pursuing the common objective always seems to help align men and women to put aside their differences and fulfil the task at hand.

What skills or qualities do you think are particularly valuable for women to cultivate to succeed in this field?
It is no secret that bringing good design ideas to life requires much collaboration between different stakeholders. Hence, clear and effective communication skills are important for building relationships with colleagues internally and with suppliers across industries. Fortunately, for those who can draw, the act of presenting ideas and sharing information with third-party subcontractors, suppliers or clients becomes easier. For women to succeed in this collaborative field of design, leading with influence and having good communication skills will be good qualities to have.

Can you share any experiences that highlight the unique dynamics of being a woman in the profession that you are in?
Female designers were hardly ever expected to succeed as independent business owners and break the glass ceiling in a male-dominated industry. During the early days of my design career, I have often been mistaken as the assistant to my male managers while visiting job sites or mistaken as the spouse of a perceived male owner at company events. More often than not, I will be denied entry by the security guards at work sites, until my male managers “chaperon” me inside.

Managing director and associate principal Asia Pacific at WATG

Vicky Wang has over two decades of architectural expertise in hospitality, mixed-use, and luxury residential projects worldwide, with a focus on the Greater China region. With a unique background in both the US and China, her visionary leadership consistently exceeds client expectations, delivering award-winning ventures like The Ritz-Carlton Xi’an Luxury Hotel and Retail, No. 9 Luxury Residence in Xi’an, Grand Enterprise Chengdu mixed-use complex, and Chimelong Qingyuan hotel complex. Previously at CallisonRTKL, Wang played a key role in renowned projects such as the New Jiangwan Cultural Center and Shanghai Baccarat Residences. 

Have you encountered any specific challenges unique to being a woman in this field, and if so, how have you addressed them?
I have encountered challenges such as being underestimated and not being taken seriously. Addressing these challenges involves speaking up and asserting confidence. Earning respect from both consultants and clients proves to be a hurdle, often requiring female architects to work twice as hard to establish their worth. Despite making roles clear, there’s still the risk of being mistaken for a non-architect and facing unwarranted scrutiny about qualifications and experience. Perseverance is crucial in overcoming these challenges, standing firm and maintaining confidence to establish credibility.
For architect mothers, limitations in site visits may present additional difficulties. This can impact the creation of authentic design narratives and building client relationships without face-to-face opportunities. However, motherhood can also bring a unique perspective and inner strength, propelling female architects towards constant improvement and empowering them to evolve as designers and leaders. In the realm of hospitality design, parenthood reshapes considerations for multi-generational vacations and kids’ club offerings. Motherhood cultivates nurturing spirit, patience and empathy — all valuable traits for leading a team.

What skills or qualities do you think are particularly valuable for women to cultivate in order to succeed in this field?
Prioritising trust is key. Trust serves as the foundation that empowers us to explore boundaries and foster innovation within our team and alongside our clients. At WATG, our core principle revolves around a human-centric approach, emphasising the cultivation and nurturing of our team. We strive to understand our clients’ visions, crafting exceptional and memorable experiences for both guests and staff. Empathy plays a significant role, allowing us to envision how the spaces we design will resonate with their users.

Can you share any experiences that highlight the unique dynamics of being a woman in the profession that you are in?
Many of my colleagues, myself included, are parents, and we appreciate that our workplace champions inclusivity and work-life balance. Engaging in meaningful discussions about this exciting phase of life fosters a unique connection among colleagues. This exchange transcends personal boundaries, influencing our professional interactions and creating a cohesive teamwork dynamic.

Studio director and architecture principal at WATG

Chiara Calufetti-Lim has over 25 years of architectural expertise, specialising in high-end retail, hospitality, residential, and renovation projects, along with master planning and urban design. Her track record of delivering successful, award-winning ventures consistently impresses clients. With experience spanning Europe, Italy, Portugal, Asia, and the US, Chiara demonstrates versatility and a global perspective. As a LEED-accredited professional, she champions sustainability and contributes insights into branding, interior remodelling, and historic preservation. Notable projects include the Ritz-Carlton Reserve in Jiuzhaigou, China, and the Sofitel Nusa Dua Beach Resort in Bali, Indonesia. 

Have you encountered any specific challenges unique to being a woman in this field, and if so, how have you addressed them?
Earlier in my professional career, there were times when I was denied recognition as an architect. As a young professional finding my way around several construction sites dominated by “macho” contractors, it was a challenge to receive respect, especially for me as a rather petite person. I also found myself in many situations during site visits where I was travelling, for example, with 22 men on my own! Even today, at times, people are surprised to find a woman in a leadership position. Nevertheless, I have resolved to improve my presence by honing my communication skills, body language and interpersonal interactions in different contexts.
I attended a course in communications facilitated by a petite female instructor who is also blonde. Her insights taught me to not be fazed by stereotypes and to project more authority, adjusting the way I channel energy to command the situation. This became a pivotal point for me, applicable not only in the field but also in the meeting room, where women’s voices are often overlooked. It’s a common scenario where women propose ideas that go unheard, while the same ideas shared by men just a few minutes later receive applause and adoption. Women may harbour self-doubt, but we must be courageous, speak up, and convey intentionality; they should also avoid letting minor issues compromise the bigger picture or the long-term success of each project and their careers. 

What skills or qualities do you think are particularly valuable for women to cultivate in order to succeed in this field?
Women should embrace speaking up, sharing their opinions, and ensuring their voices are heard. It’s about believing in their strength and resilience, refusing to yield when their contributions go unnoticed. We should be brave and assertive, believe in ourselves more and not shy away from opportunities when offered. We should always maintain the big picture of our professional goals, as we tend to work so hard on projects and to resolve problems but forget the big picture. We should learn to zoom out and recalibrate.

Can you share any experiences that highlight the unique dynamics of being a woman in the profession that you are in?
Research has shown that women typically possess high emotional intelligence (EQ), we in general understand and navigate both our team and the client’s team dynamics well. This proves invaluable in identifying pain points and resolving them efficiently. We tend to be more attuned to clients’ aspirations and site conditions, approaching design solutions with a holistic perspective.
I consider myself fortunate to have worked in different continents across countless projects globally, gaining invaluable exposure as a female architect and as a principal gaining the respect of the team and the client. Ultimately, it boils down to hard work, proactively sharing knowledge and insights to provide solutions.

Managing principal at Wimberly Interior

Deepu Mahboobani has over 20 years of international hospitality design expertise at Wimberly Interiors, specialising in luxury hotels, resorts, F&B, gaming salons, spas, and high-end residential projects. As vice-president, she oversees the Singapore interiors studio, focusing on commercial strategy, design integrity, cross-discipline coordination, and project delivery. Deepu adeptly integrates creative aspirations with practical considerations, ensuring a harmonious balance in large, complex projects. Notable projects include St Regis Singapore, Four Seasons Hong Kong, Crown Towers in Perth and Manila, Marina Bay Sands, and the Capitol Theatre preservation in Singapore. 

Have you encountered any specific challenges unique to being a woman in this field, and if so, how have you addressed them?
In my career, I’ve been fortunate to be part of environments where women are well-represented, even in industries traditionally dominated by men. I began in India in the 1990s, where my first job was with an architectural firm led by two inspiring sisters with over 12 years of experience. Witnessing their confidence in facing clients and managing employees was truly motivating.
During a visit to Australia a few years ago, I was struck by the presence of a female electrician at a project site. This further highlighted the progress being made in diversifying traditionally male-dominated fields. 
Throughout my career, I’ve been surrounded by successful women leaders. While I’ve been fortunate not to face any gender-related challenges, I have encountered cultural hurdles during site visits in certain regions. Representing an American company as an Indian, I’ve had to navigate client expectations and perceptions. While changing others’ perceptions may be beyond my control, I focus on contributing value through my creativity and skills as an architect and interior designer.

What skills or qualities do you think are particularly valuable for women to cultivate in order to succeed in this field?
An innate ability to multitask, stay organised, and plan ahead is a significant advantage in any leadership role. However, it’s the qualities of empathy, emotional intelligence, and a nurturing demeanour that truly set compassionate women leaders apart. These qualities are invaluable in providing support to the team and fostering a positive work environment.
Achieving a harmonious balance between creativity and practicality is essential, especially in large, complex projects. It requires a combination of knowledge, dedication, and patience to set the right pace and tone for design progression from the project’s inception.
One example is our collaboration on the Yanbai Villa project with Pritzker Prize-winning architect Wang Shu. The unique gallery-style architecture presented numerous challenges in room configurations and design iterations. However, through patience and a steadfast commitment to our creative vision, we successfully achieved the envisioned outcome, a testament to our team’s dedication and expertise.

Can you share any experiences that highlight the unique dynamics of being a woman in the profession that you are in?
I often reflect on my travels to various sites, particularly a trip to Abu Dhabi years ago when I journeyed alone. Initially feeling a bit lost at the project site, I had the opportunity to meet with a Hawaiian artist commissioned for a custom mural on the restaurant’s dome. Our interaction over the refinement of the design, along with witnessing his creative skills and methodology, was truly unique.
Another unforgettable experience was in Sanya, where I spent a few weeks without knowing how to speak or read Mandarin. Despite the language barrier, I cherished every moment, embracing new experiences like enjoying street food with the project team or having a drink on the beach while red-lining drawings. My god-daughter had given me one of her Chinese dolls named Sarah to accompany me, and I kept her on my desk while working or at the table during meals. 
As a woman, these chance encounters hold a special place in my heart, highlighting the power of connecting with a new place, discovering its culture, and having meaningful conversations with like-minded individuals. 

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