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"Gender? It's a chance, not an obstacle. IWD is an opportunity" – one female architect's view of what IWD means to diversity in retirement living.


Meet Oluwaseyi Sobogun, a talented architect in her 7th year at PRP Architects, specialising in later living. For her, International Women's Day is a celebration and an opportunity to spotlight those around her. She firmly believes “gender should never be an obstacle”; instead, it's a chance to embrace diverse persp­­ectives and drive progress in retirement living.

 

Oluwaseyi’s journey into the retirement living sector began unexpectedly at a university careers event where Mary Hutchison, Associate Director at PRP Architects, showcased the firm’s specialist housing projects. Oluwaseyi was “drawn to the intricacies of designing for specific demographics and accessibility needs”. This newfound interest led her to pursue a role at PRP, where she became their first ever architectural apprentice.

 

During the early projects is where Oluwaseyi flourished, finding great personal and professional growth. She recognised the importance of architecture in catering to the ageing population, a sector now expanding within the industry. And she witnessed the evolution of PRP's Later Living services, transitioning from 'specialist housing & care' to the broader scope of 'later living.' Through dedication and passion, Oluwaseyi has become instrumental in shaping environments that cater to the unique needs of retirement living, blending functionality with thoughtful design.

 

Don’t let your doubts hold you back


Oluwaseyi’s architectural success has been accompanied by challenges with imposter syndrome and gender inequality. During her apprenticeship, she was one of the few black females in her architecture course, reflecting wider industry disparities where only 31% of architects are female and 1% are black. Throughout her career, the feeling of not belonging has lingered, questioning her worthiness and skills in a predominantly male industry. Failure in a final apprenticeship exam reinforced doubts of her belonging, but Oluwaseyi persevered, reminding herself of her significance as a young black woman in architecture.

 

Observing confident and bold women at various levels in the company, Oluwaseyi found encouragement within the inclusive PRP environment. However, she acknowledges her office is unique and the broader industry lacks diversity. Through organisations like WiRL, she sees progress, particularly in the retirement living sector. Oluwaseyi’s resilience and determination inspires not only herself but also those who follow in her footsteps, advocating for greater inclusivity and representation in the field.

 

The importance of inclusion in every sector


For those embarking on the same journey, Oluwaseyi’s message to you and her younger self is this: “Every tear shed, every sleepless night, every emotion signifies your passion and determination. Don't falter; keep pushing forward. Despite doubts and moments of wanting to give up, know that every decision, even if it feels like a mistake, leads to growth. The supportive environment you have is invaluable. Stay resilient, for in the end, it all aligns. Have faith in your journey as an architect; you possess the strength and capability to succeed”.

 

International Women's Day is a reminder of the importance of diversity and inclusion in every sector, including retirement living. Designing for people means inviting everybody to the table, incorporating diverse perspectives and ensuring everyone's needs are met. Oluwaseyi advocates that with representation at the forefront, we create spaces that truly cater to all, fostering innovation and understanding through inclusive dialogue.


Interviewed by Rebecca Stuart-Jack, Marketing Assistant at PRP Architects



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