A Human Approach to Lighting

As we look to shape 2022 and beyond, it is important to recognize the achievements women have made within the lighting industry, especially when considering how important the built environment is to our health and wellbeing.

We were both raised to question why things are a certain way and challenge them if we do not agree. Through our work in lighting, we have experienced firsthand that much of the design and lighting industry is rooted in systems that have “stood the test time.”  We believe that if we disrupt the status quo, and it can help just one person, then it is a win for all.

Our mission at TPL Lighting and The Adelaide Project is to shift a very old school narrative around lighting by adding needed transparency and moving the conversation from a commodity approach to selling, to one that focuses on the human experience of lighting. Our human approach not only includes the person who sits under the light but also the experience of each human who touches each part of the process in the path to market. Through our work, we aim to inspire, educate, and collaborate within the lighting community. By working together to support everyone’s best interest, our clients and their clients will ultimately be happier and more satisfied with the end results. The experiences we’ve had in our careers have proven to us that approaching people as humans results in better relationships and overall better outcomes for everyone involved both personally and in achieving business goals.

The opportunity to work with other design professionals to disrupt industry standards has also provided us with the support that women in the field don’t always receive. Before we met, early in our careers, there were times we would walk in a room and instantly be judged, our suggestions second guessed or ignored. Historically, the lighting industry has been male centric, and we have had our fair share of trials to prove ourselves as equals. Relying on a strong network of mentors who have helped us get to where we are today, we can work towards shifting that imbalance and finding solutions that help us open more doors for women.

As in many professions, when men and women enter their careers, men are often promoted for their “potential” and women are evaluated based on their “proficiency.” This approach is often the case with promotions: a woman will have to prove her skills before she is promoted. Overall, this creates about a five-year promotion gap. Women are always more than capable, but they are required to prove it first. The first step to workplace equality is understanding that doing a good job has nothing to do with how you identify your gender. It is also uncommon for a man to be asked whether he can balance more responsibilities at work and also be a parent. Conversely, it is automatically assumed that a mother will have to take time out of her career to focus on raising children. We must evolve as a society to understand that a child is not just the mother’s responsibility.

The pandemic opened the eyes of many to acknowledge how much work a person takes on, in terms of childcare and home life. With everyone at home balancing these aspects of life, more employers have realized that it is possible to balance all three if you have the support of your employer. If we, men and women, are open with employers about personal needs for childcare in particular, companies can foster a supportive culture and build trust amongst everyone. Not having support prevents women from thriving.

Women are also often criticized for being too emotional or letting their emotions get the best of them. Being able to guide with your emotions is actually a strength. Through our work, we have seen that there is nothing wrong with tapping into your emotions and relating to people on that human level. It has helped us gain new business and retain lifelong clients. This also means that you need to have the confidence to ‘punch back’ when you’ve been belittled or ignored. You should always lead with kindness and positivity, but there comes a time when you must meet someone where they are and stand up for yourself in a way that forces them to take you seriously. Having the confidence to not always step aside is where we have found success, and steadfast colleagues who wholly support that same approach make all the difference in those critical moments.

The final piece to the disruptors puzzle is a plan. Hope is not a strategy: you either will do something or you won’t. At TPL Lighting we implemented a 2030 strategy that not only outlines company goals but also industry goals. This strategy has placed guiding with the “Human Experience” at the center of all decisions. In day-to-day practice, this means always giving the benefit of the doubt in all things, and creating a transparent culture of inclusion, diversity, and respect. We support asynchronous work, which provides our team members flexibility in how, when, and where they work, ensuring workstyles align with our client’s and company’s needs. We have also added coverage in our health benefits plan to allow for mental health support, recognizing that people come to work as whole selves and this important part of health and wellbeing can’t be overlooked. This means supporting principles, not policies, in order to empower people to make the best decisions for the way they want to work.

At the center of everything we do, we lead with the Human Experience. We are building a working environment that drives collaboration, energy, excitement, and engagement. These strategies, combined with confidence in our ability to lead and our knowledge of the industry, is the best path forward in disrupting the lighting and design industry.

Dayna Bradley is president of TPL Lighting, a family-owned architectural lighting agency based in Toronto, and Nawleen Kaur is a Creative Lighting Specialist at Toronto-based The Adelaide Project.

Dayna Bradley
Nawleen Kaur