One of our own died last week and we are all the poorer for it. Paula Maynes was an active member of the 74% Kitchen Cabinet. She was a successful architect with her own firm who saw her place in the world as a proud architect and champion of effective partnership, justice when it’s hard to know what’s right and the warm light of dialogue and process. She was 54 and we and her family were robbed.
I knew Paula because she was President of the AIA board when they were confronting some essential issues around advocacy, responsibility to their members and defining how best to have a voice in the civic debate about our built environment. As Board President, Paula was determined to have a comprehensive conversation that dealt with not only the aesthetics questions that rightfully belong to the leading association of architects and the rights of members to have an appropriate voice in the opinions of their association. She was also determined to protect the right to have an opinion for her knowledgeable female executive who had angered some of the male members. Paula was intent on seeing her executive lend her needed voice to the public discourse. By developing a process for civic engagement that spoke to all of these issues and could be supported by people who could civilly disagree, we all win. How counter-cultural she was in this age of shouting each other down.
Paula was a silver-haired, brilliant blue-eyed beauty with a spine of tensile steel. She was willing to do the hard work of listening across difference and seeking to craft a solution that wasn’t facile, but was responsive. She seemed to never lose sight of what was really important. She was an exemplary Board leader…she was the type of board leader we so desperately need if the 74% is ever to find equity in not only, its compensation practices, but also to make a place at the table for fierce, opinionated, strong women who have something to say that we need to hear.
I am going to miss my friend Paula every time I see a woman being excluded or minimized in a policy dialogue. I am going to look for the other Paulas and hope they have her bravery, her grace and her genuine belief in the power of respectful dialogue. Godspeed, dear Paula…thanks so much for making this world a truly better place.