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Advancement of Women in Construction


Explore how to build a company culture that prioritizes employee growth, education opportunities and collaboration.

Knowing how to attract and retain diverse talent is crucial in creating and designing unique solutions in the construction industry. Ellen Dickson and Kara Smalley of Bailey Edward Design, a woman-owned architecture, engineering and interior design firm with three offices in Illinois, will explore how they have built a company culture that prioritizes employee growth through its vision, education opportunities, and an emphasis on collaboration. The result is a staff of dedicated employees who are invested not only in their own growth but also that of the company.



Ellen Dickson

Ellen Dickson

Bailey Edward Design

  • Founded Bailey Edward in 1991 which has since grown into a company of over 50 employees in less than 30 years, maintaining a 50/50 balance of women to men across three Illinois offices
  • Honored by the AIA in 2016 with Fellowship status, recognizing her influential leadership skills, advancement of the profession through exemplary practice management and mentoring of young women architects for leadership roles
  • Active member of the National Association of Women Business Owners Chicago Chapter, 1992-2003, serving as President, Director, External Affairs Director and Program Council Vice President from 1997 through 2002
Karla Smalley

Karla Smalley

Bailey Edward Design

  • Joined Bailey Edward in 2010 as an architect and design professional and has collaborated on a variety of projects ranging from K-12 and higher educational to municipal facilities
  • Led the Champaign, Illinois office as Branch Manager and in 2019 was elevated to Associate Principal
  • Active leader in the Staff Development Advisory Group and Training Program at Bailey Edward Design, focused on building young talent in the Historic Preservation sector
  • Active member of the Champaign community, volunteering for the Preservation and Conservation Association of Champaign County as well as participating in student charettes and career days at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

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