L to r: SOM partners Carrie Byles, Laura Ettelman, and Xuan Fu
Cody Pickens (Byles and Fu); Lucas Blair Simpson (Ettelman) / courtesy SOM L to r: SOM partners Carrie Byles, Laura Ettelman, and Xuan Fu

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Skidmore, Owings & Merrill is among the select firms whose projects, if not its name, are well known beyond the building industry. Founded in 1936, the firm behind such projects as the Lever House in New York, the Willis Tower in Chicago, and the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, has been almost exclusively led by men. One obvious exception was Marilyn Jordan Taylor, FAIA, who was named firm "chairman" in 2001. After her two-year term, the approximately 1,100-person firm switched to an executive committee model in which three elected partners act collectively as CEO. In 2016, San Francisco–based partner Carrie Byles, FAIA, was named to the executive committee, followed by Chicago-based partner Xuan Fu, AIA, in 2019. Come Oct. 1, New York–based partner Laura Ettelman, AIA, will complete the triad, marking the first time three women will hold the top leadership posts at SOM.

In this episode, Byles, Fu, and Ettelman share how they entered and advanced in the architecture profession, recent moves to reorganize SOM's business operations, and the firm's responses to COVID-19 and the increasing calls to dismantle systemic racism, sparked by the killing of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers.

Episode 56: Meet SOM's First All-Female Executive Committee, featuring Skidmore, Owings & Merrill partners Carrie Byles, Laura Ettelman, and Xuan Fu, is also available on SoundCloud, iTunes, and GooglePlay.

Show Notes
This podcast episode references SOM's June 21 public statement, "In Support of the Fight for Racial Justice."

This podcast episode was produced by Wanda Lau and Rob Grauert. This article has been updated since first publication.