GLEN ROCK, N.J. — To simply say that Xiomara Paredes of Paredes-Grube Architecture in Glen Rock will be missed on Wednesday would be an understatement.
Intern Jeffrey Gasnick of Wayne says the five years he's spent under Paredes' guidance taught him more than he's learned in a classroom.
And the fact that his boss is a woman has nothing to do with any of it.
"She's the heart of the business," Gasnick, 26, said of Paredes, who will not be in on Wednesday to observe Day Without Women.
"It's going to be tough without her."
Not nearly as difficult as Paredes' road to success, though.
"I’ve had to work twice as hard to gain the trust and to get in the position that I am now," said Paredes of Ridgewood.
"I've had to do double the work and be very careful with everything I do because of the lack of credit that I get being a woman."
And a woman with an accent at that. A woman in a male-dominated field.
A woman who is working tirelessly to defend her daughter and future generations, she said.
Paredes came to the U.S. in 1980 from Venezuela. She had to take two years of English language classes before she could even apply to school.
She was among the 10 percent of females in her school at Rensselaer in Troy, N.Y. — and for some reason, that mattered.
"People, even my professors, were always asking me, 'What made you pick this profession, being a woman?'" she said.
"What does that have to do with anything?"
These days, not much at all.
Paredes went on to win a thesis award when she completed her master's degree, and in 1995 she became a licensed architect in New Jersey and New York — the greatest accomplishment of them all, she said.
"I don't know any architect that's come from another country that's passed that exam," she said.
She has designed nearly 100 houses in Glen Rock, but has unfortunately faced adversity in the process.
And it hurts.
"A wife will sometimes say she likes working with me because she feels comfortable and she likes my ideas," said Paredes, who specializes in residential architecture. "But their husbands don't feel comfortable.
"It makes me very angry."
Not angry enough to leave her passion, though.
The hope for Paredes is that so many women will stay home on Wednesday that people are able to see the difference in the workplace.
"This is my way of protesting for the disrespect that the president and Congress have shown toward women with their actions and decisions," said Paredes, who first became passionate about advocacy work at the Women on Washington March.
"In a way they’re reversing all the gains we as women have gotten in the past 50 years. Who would think we would have to go through something like this?"