13 Oct 2022

Meet Norma Merrick Sklarek



Did you ever wonder who the first woman to officially become an architect was? Well, look no further! In 1954 and 1962, Norma passed her license exam in both New York and California, becoming the first to be titled an architect in these states.


Early Life

Growing up with a mother who was a seamstress and a father who was a doctor, Norma was taught many hands-on skills and enjoyed seeing ideas come to life. Combining all of her skills and passions, Norma decided to go to school to become an architect.


She had a hard time during her college and university years because her course was made up of folks who didn’t look like her (mostly white and male) and felt excluded from study groups and friendships. Despite this, five years after starting her degree she graduated and was the only African-American woman on the course.



Soon after graduating Norma found a job but realised it wasn’t challenging enough for her and didn’t include architecture which she was passionate about because architecture required a license on top of a degree. She searched around and soon realised she needed a job she was passionate about and decided to take the exam which no woman had ever taken before. She passed the exam with flying colours and then got an architectural job which she loved. She also taught architectural classes in the evening so she could afford to look after her children.

In her role at an architectural firm, she was made the first female vice president! However, she faced a lot of discrimination from her white male colleagues. This didn’t stop her though, she went on to oversee the creation of countless buildings including the Mall of America and the United States Embassy in Tokyo.

Norma worked so hard that she became her firm’s first African American female director and passed on her skills and knowledge to young women who she mentored.


Would you like to mentor others when you have a career? Would you like to be mentored?


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