GF’s Commitment to Female Empowerment and Development


Celebrating Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day allows us to honor the many contributions and achievements of women across the globe. At GF, we recognize strides that our female employees have made for equity, especially in fields like architecture and engineering where that may not have always been the case. Similarly, as we sponsor Ana Paula Valdes on her road to the LGPA, we are grateful to collaborate with such an empowered female athlete who continues to inspire other women to pursue their dreams.

Women now represent 27 percent of the AEC sector around the globe and there are continuing efforts to position women in more leadership positions throughout the industry. Much like architecture, professional sports are also looking to promote equality. Ana Paula Valdes’ partnership with GF during the Epson Season allows us to have a hands-on approach to supporting women across all fields. As a firm where nearly 50 percent of our employees are women, we pride ourselves encouraging female empowerment and career growth. Whether they have been a GF employee for many years or have advanced to leadership positions throughout their GF careers, the GF family believes in achieving goals together. In honor of Women’s History Month, we are highlighting women at GF who have grown throughout their career by sharing their responses to a series of questions.

Dawn Schaffran and Lakeisha Manuel-Jones share their appreciation for GF’s career development of its employees. As a GF employee of 23 years, Dawn Schaffran feels, “empowered to pursue [her] passions”, and has identified her strengths throughout her journey at GF. Accounting Manager Lakeisha Manuel-Jones, feels like GF supports her to step out of her comfort zone, advancing to higher positions in the company. Dawn and Lakeisha are thankful for their supported careers and exemplify how we celebrate female leadership at GF.

As a firm that believes in solving problems and achieving goals together, Krista Karlson, Johanna Ward, and Adara Dodson discuss how GF contributes to achieving their accomplishments. In early 2022, SGA|NW was acquired by GF, allowing Krista and Johanna to join our team. Since then, Krista Karlson, Managing Director of the Charlotte Office, has helped the firm pivot to the “new normal” workplace after the COVID-19 pandemic. She regards this as a “large accomplishment.” Krista ensured that her team members would feel connected during this uncertain time with her leadership. Johanna Ward, Senior Interior Designer, is glad to have “various, rewarding experiences while working at SGA|NW.” Adara Dodson states that “taking on complex engineering projects requires efficient solutions”, and finding these solutions is gratifying.

At GF, our female team members have taken on many different projects, ranging in complexity, scope, and client requests. Because of this, we are eager to share memorable work experiences over the years. While Dawn Schaffran feels, “[she] has a lot of cherished moments” in the workplace, Lucia Taboada recalls, “the Nike Unite Guadalajara”, project as her favorite. Located in Distrito La Perla Mall in Guadalajara, Mexico, Lucia, and the GF team worked closely with Nike to tropicalize the brand’s new concept image to Mexico’s market. She believes this was one of her most “challenging but rewarding projects” as she collaborated with Nike’s team players.

Across the board, our GF women are anticipating a variety of exciting next steps in their careers. Overall, many of our team members look forward to watching client visions come to life and tracking the success of recently finished projects, especially when they are nominated for awards. While Johanna looks forward to “attending Neocon with the Greenville team”, Lucia is excited for the renovated Mexico City Office where she will embark on new challenges and projects.

A few of our GF women describe their most impactful leadership advice. Tapping into project-based work, Adara feels that “thoroughly understanding each project” and its unique requirements allows her to best complete each project. As a female architect, Krista has encountered situations where she must trust her gut and believe in herself against the odds.

We deeply appreciate the GF women who inspire others, and to pursue their dreams in and out of their careers. GF prioritizes supporting women in their professional journeys through leadership development, encouragement, and sponsorships. GF’s sponsorship of Ana Paula Valdes coincides with the motivating efforts of our GF employees. With an array of achievements, interests, and professional skills, the women of GF are a critical component in working towards achieving goals together.