Equity is Action
Suzanne Blair and I recently attended the biennial AIA Vision Future Symposium on The Value Proposition for Equity and ended the week on a high note. Not only was the sun out (finally!); not only did we spend the day with some talented Portland business women; but we were re-inspired and challenged to improve ourselves, our firm and our community.
Re-fueling the fire is a good thing – we can always do better and do more.
At SERA, as with many other architectural firms, the commitment to improve the built environment goes much deeper than what we design. Our values propel us to be volunteers, participants and mentors in our work and in our communities.
We envision ourselves as representing everyone, but we are not reflective of everyone – so we must do better. Despite our good intentions, even though we may be reaching out, or have a program in place, it does not mean it is working.
Our profession has a strong ‘apprentice’ mentality that does not typically lend itself to inclusiveness or alternative paths. And like most other professions, mentorship is key to an individual’s success. If you don’t see yourself in a position, or a way to achieve it, you are probably not going to start or stay in the profession. To create the diverse and successful architecture firms of the future we then must pro-actively include and invite diversity to the design and decision table and not be so narrow minded as to think we can represent it ourselves.
The symposium we attended was mainly focused on women in architecture and data collected by the San Francisco AIA Equity by Design (EQxD) committee (formerly known as the Missing 32% Project), which sheds light on the obstacles that women face in the profession. The myth that we leave the profession because we give birth has been debunked finally. The data shows that most office policies are not supportive of mothers, and that we choose to leave the profession to do something else in the design realm that better supports both roles.
We ended the day with a presentation by Denise Harrington, who drove the point that equity is action, and if we want to provide opportunities for everyone it will take effort – real effort – within the profession to make this happen.
So I’m asking, SERA: what is one action we can take this year to help develop, retain and promote the talented women in this office?