In conversation with Sarah Kay, Director & Sydney Studio Chair


About Sarah Kay

Sarah’s architectural career spans two decades and three continents, building lasting client relationships and delivering projects in London, Melbourne, Sydney and New York. She has a deep understanding of the challenges, both local and universal, facing global organisations keeping pace with a fast-changing world.

Sarah leads the Sydney studio, supporting the thriving studio to deliver world’s best projects across many sectors and project typologies. She is a passionate supporter of equity within the Property Industry and has mentored many women within the Woods Bagot community and beyond to leadership roles.

What does #EmbraceEquity mean to you?

The numbers are getting better in the industry so there is improvement in equality. But is the equity getting better? Are we being honest about the hierarchy of roles in industries and the equitable distribution of roles between men and women?
These are the questions we should be tackling because we still have problems with equity today.

It is the systemic differences and issues that we had in previous generations that are still impacting on the way we are operating and impacts diversity.

For me, that is the difference between equality and equity. It is the reverse pendulum swing where we need to make the effort to fix the “system” built upon past generations.

Evidently, we haven’t quite recovered from those differences. We need to face these challenges and questions in order to embrace inclusivity and accessibility.

Tell us about your inspirations and who you look up to.

Such a long list – people like…

  • Georgia Singleton and Abby Galvin – trail blazing ‘Design’ Architects!
  • Dr Sarah Hill and Anita Mitchell – city shaping urbanists!
  • Carmel Hourigan and Kylie Rampa – taking on the big jobs in the ‘big end of town’
  • Last, not least, but a little bit different – my husband – for being a proud stay at home Dad

Sarah Kay and Lendlease’s Executive Director Jason deSouza on the Smarter Cities Podcast.

What does visibility mean to you?

Potentially its everything.

Visibility allows understanding, it signals permission, it motivates ambition, and it signposts a direction.

With 4 of the 8 Principals in our Sydney Studio being women (including the Studio Chair and the Studio Design Stream Leader), there really is a clear signal that senior leadership roles in the Architectural profession can be the norm and will be the norm.

One of my favourite examples of visibility (and one that you wouldn’t normally think of as important), was when John Prentice, a Principal in Sydney Studio, decided to work from home on Fridays. This was pre-Covid, so the most outrageous thing anyone had ever heard of – a Dad working from home! Career suicide! The visibility of this decision was so important in changing people’s perception of both women and men working flexibly to support families.


Sarah Kay, Kim Crestani (Order Architects), Nick Smith (Kippax), Alex Worland, Kate Dickinson, John Prentice & Jason Fraser at the Property Council of Australia (PCA) National Innovation & Excellence Awards.

“Visibility allows understanding, it signals permission, it motivates ambition, and it signposts a direction.”

What has been critical in your career field or path?

I have had a lot of different roles within Woods Bagot and one thing I have learnt along the way is – YOU CAN DO ANY JOB, you just have to figure out what the task is and what resources, knowledge, and mentoring that you need to complete it.

It sounds like a cliché but it’s so true – the support of my family. They move around the world with me, every time I say, “let’s go”, and they let me work the hours I need to and travel when I need to. I am very lucky to have this support and flexibility. Most people don’t.

What changes would you like to see in the industry?

More female Design Architects – the ones that hold the fat pens and the yellow trace, the ones that present to City of Sydney for design comps. Often, we see women in management, client type leadership positions but we also need to see more in Design Leadership positions.

We need to allow more women to be THE Designers.

To reach out to Sarah Kay, you can contact us here. 

Stay tuned for more stories celebrating women leading the way in the architecture & design industry, groundbreaking projects and celebrating #EmbraceEquity for International Women’s Day.


Sarah Kay speaks to Western Sydney Dialogue

Director Sarah Kay takes the thinking further in an interview about opportunities in Western Sydney to adopt the ‘community node’ model which proposes decentralising companies’ headquarters and opening up nodal hubs in the suburbs.

Latest from the Global Studio