13 Oct 2022

Meet Norma Merrick Sklarek



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


Early Life

Growing up, her mother was a seamstress and her father was a doctor. This meant that Norma picked up many hands-on skills from her parents. She realised that she could use her love for seeing ideas come to life and use her hands-on skills. This is when Norma decided to go to school to become an architect.


She had a hard time during college and university as none of the students on the course looked like her. As the students were white and male, she felt excluded from study groups and friendships. Despite this, she graduated, after being the only African-American woman on the course.



Soon after graduating, Norma found a job. Unfortunately, the job wasn’t challenging and didn’t include her passions. She knew architecture required a license on top of a degree, so this is what she set out to do. She realised she needed a job she was passionate about and took the exam that 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 evening classes in architecture to afford to look after her children.

In her role at an architectural firm, she became the first female vice president. But, 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 and became her firm’s first African American female director. She 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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