Beverly Willis

Member, Women Moving Millions
Founder, Beverly Willis Architecture Foundation

Speaking topics: Funding women & girls, women in building industry, women’s leadership, women and architecture

Geographic location: New York City

Willing to travel? Yes

Website links: Beverly Willis, Beverly Willis Architecture Foundation

Recommended Fees: Available upon request

Contact Information: Please click here to contact Beverly with your request

Biography:

Beverly Willis is a fearless and irreplaceable advocate for the contribution of women to the built environment. To ensure that the legacy of women in architecture lives on, she founded the nonprofit organization the Beverly Willis Architecture Foundation (BWAF) in 2002, and embarked upon a journey to push the boundaries of the “male dominated, macho culture of the building industry” and support the rise of female executives in the world of architecture. After over 30 years of leading her own architecture and development firm, Willis had an epiphany: “I looked around and realized that women architects were not in the history books. That meant my legacy, like those before me, would be lost upon my death.” In 10 years, BWAF has grown from providing a grant program for individuals and national organizations doing research to delivering numerous core programs about women in architecture, including education, research and outreach. BWAF has also collaborated on projects with major exhibitors, including the Museum of Modern Art, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and the National Building Museum. It works with several member organizations as well, including Professional Women in Construction, the Society of Architectural Historians and the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture. Willis grew up in the oil fields of Texas and Oklahoma amidst the oil boom of the 1920s. “Oil derricks were my backyard swings and I loved climbing them,” she says. She learned to pilot an airplane at the age of 15 and, with basic know-how about the workings of motors, Willis set off to Oregon State University to study aeronautical engineering. She later transferred to the University of Hawaii and switched to art. While in charge of a design project for the military in Hawaii, Willis annoyed an architect by giving him instructions and he snarled, “If you think that you are so smart, why don???????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????t you become an architect?” She knew a good idea when she heard it, and shortly after took the five-day exam and passed, becoming a licensed architect. Willis is the winner of numerous design and leadership awards, including a Lifetime Achievement Award from Professional Women in Construction in 2011 and Top Women in Real Estate from NY Residential Magazine in 2010. Willis is also a founding trustee of the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C. and a leader of the BWAF Industry Leaders Roundtable, a group of the world’s largest engineering and architecture firms. Her future goal is to help the Foundation change the patriarchal culture of the design and building industry to one that values a woman???s vision, and her thoughts and work. Meeting this challenge will take a continuing and collaborative effort from all women and men alike.

Learn more about Beverly and her Foundation