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Houston Power Women: Meet Gensler Co-Managing Director Stephanie Burritt

Gensler's Houston co-Managing Director Stephanie Burritt at Lubbock's Buddy Holly Center

Bisnow's first-ever Houston Power Women event is just around the corner. In the lead-up to the big day, we'll be highlighting the event's honorees. Next up is Gensler Houston co-Managing Director Stephanie Burritt. 

A graduate of the University of Cincinnati, Burritt has worked for Gensler since she began her career in the international design firm's London office 20 years ago. After six years across the pond, Burritt was off to Houston, where she has designed and managed more than 15M SF of workplace space. In 2016, Burritt was appointed to lead the Houston office as co-managing director. She is heavily involved with the Boy Scouts Of America, and is serving as president for the State Board for The Texas Association for Interior Designers. 

Bisnow: Who was the first person to teach you how to be business savvy?

Burritt: My dad. Growing up, he taught me so many lessons in business that still come in handy today. He instilled in me the importance of commitment, time management and how to spend and save money — even if it was just for a babysitting gig! He coached me on why communication is so crucial. My first jobs were long before cell phones, so he always reminded me how important it was to connect and communicate well with my coworkers and supervisors.

I specifically remember when I first started to earn money, he taught me how to divide my income into thirds. The concept of splitting money to allocate for now, for short-term savings and for long-term savings is something I still think about today in my current leadership position. Reflecting back, I can see why he was trying to teach me these basic principles. 

Bisnow: What is the biggest challenge for the next generation of women?

Burritt: Honestly, I believe the biggest challenge for the next generation is getting over it. Let’s just be the best that we can be. Whatever your gender may be, let’s stop making that a barrier or a limiter to what we can achieve. At some point we have to stop talking about the gender differences. The next generation of women just needs to worry about being the best they can be at whatever they choose to do. 

Bisnow: What do you think is the most significant barrier to female leadership?

Burritt: I personally don’t think there are significant barriers to female leadership. Women should be constantly inquisitive and pay attention to what their male counterparts are doing. By watching and learning from each other, we can better assess where we need to be for a future leadership role. I don’t think about there being a barrier to leadership, as all barriers and roadblocks can lead to an opportunity to learn and grow. 

I’m thankful to be at a firm that values leadership from any gender or background. Everything at Gensler tends to be driven by co-leadership, starting from our co-CEOs and trickling down to our local studio leadership. Always look for organizations or places of employment that match your values and especially those that value diversity in its leadership. 

Bisnow: What is one characteristic that you believe every leader should possess?

Burritt: Being a good listener. When you listen, you actually have the opportunity to learn something you didn’t know. Instead of jumping straight to conclusions, you should really stop to understand what it is that person is trying to tell you. When an employee comes to me, they are looking for guidance, not for me to talk over them or make comparisons about my past. You simply can’t lead if you aren’t listening. 

Bisnow: What are the most important decisions you make as a leader of your organization?

Burritt: The most important decisions I make as a leader at Gensler are the ones that impact the livelihood of our employees. Whether they are based around compensation, HR strategies, staffing adjustments or project work, I make a lot of decisions that can impact our employees as an individual, their finances or their professional growth.  

Making decisions about our projects or our office’s financial decisions are also very important, but at the end of the day, our biggest asset is our people. As an employee-owned organization, our people mean a lot. If the organization were to crumble, it would truly impact every person across the entire firm. Our employees are ultimately what we are trying to grow and nurture, which is why the decisions we make every day are ultimately for the betterment of our people.