2019 National Planning Conference

Women in Private Practice: Career R/Evolutions

Sunday, April 14, 2019 from 2:45 p.m. - 4 p.m. PDT

CM | 1.25

Activity Type: Educational Sessions

Activity ID: NPC198212

Location: 2004

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  • Hear about the skill set and working styles best suited to success in the private sector, and learn about the particular character of different firm sizes, from small start-ups to large practices.
  • Get details on the professional experience, client management, networking, and logistics necessary to start one’s own firm, or to take a significant step up the corporate ladder.
  • Learn more about defining career success on one’s own terms, considering both project work and workplace culture over the short term (three years) and long term (20 years).


Five women planners discuss the real challenges and rewards of private practice, sharing their perspectives on success and accomplishment in a candid, facilitated discussion. With a glass ceiling still firmly intact, a cultural crisis of workplace harassment, and continued inadequate paid parental leave, what does it take to succeed in today’s planning practice? Five leaders in their field discuss and debate the measures of and road to professional growth, fulfillment, and leadership. How does the private sector measure up in work-life balance? What are women doing now to help advance the careers of female colleagues? How has ambition or networking served their progress? What does it take to start a new firm? What motivates established professionals and firm leaders to stay the course in a large firm, or pivot to start their own practice? How are such decisions made, and what homework is necessary? How can a women-led firm be different in operations and practice? Get practical advice and frank perspectives from female professionals who’ve done it all, and hear a spirited conversation about how to define and achieve your own career success.

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Session Speakers

Briana Z. Hensold
Agency Landscape + Planning
Cambridge, MA

Fiona M. Akins, AICP
NYC Parks & Recreation
Outremont, QC

Silvia E. Vargas, AICP
Calvin, Giordano & Associates, Inc.
South Miami, FL

Rebecca Leonard, FAICP
APA Economic Development Division
Austin, TX

Ellen Lou, AICP
Skidmore Owings & Merrill, LLP
San Francisco, CA

Kathryn Firth
Boston, MA