SERA and Just: the intersection of diversity and inclusion

by | April 4, 2023 0 Ideas

Since 2019, SERA has participated in the Just program, a voluntary disclosure tool directed by the International Living Futures Institute (ILFI), that helps organizations measure and track their progress toward goals around diversity and inclusion, equity, employee health and benefits, stewardship, and purchasing.

The program provides clear methods and structured metrics for accomplishing some pretty nebulous goals about topics that require tough conversations. Just encourages us to have those conversations and then create policies and practices that will help us move the needle in the right direction.

Diversity & Inclusion

We’re not the only firm to recognize that architecture has a diversity problem. Like many industry leaders, we’re actively taking steps to have more people of color working at all levels across the firm. 

In the four years we’ve been tracking through the Just program, SERA’s minority population has increased from 14% to 23%, and leadership representation has grown from 5% to 11%. It’s satisfying to see that we’re making progress, but we’re always seeking ways to do better.

That’s why, since completing our most recent Just assessment, we have redoubled our efforts and identified more actions we can take to improve that metric, like increasing recruiting at colleges and universities with high non-caucasian populations, partnering with MWESB businesses, and participating in mentorship programs that encourage students of color to explore careers in architecture.

But just as importantly, we have been exploring the relationship between DIVERSITY and INCLUSION.

“Diversity is being invited to the party. Inclusion is being asked to dance.”

We love this quote from attorney, entrepreneur, and author Verna Myers, and we think it tells the story of how inclusion and diversity work go hand in hand. It’s not enough to increase the diversity of the firm. We need to ensure everyone has a voice, experiences a sense of belonging, and is an integral part of the team. If we don’t create structures that support this inclusion, we won’t maintain a diverse workforce. After all, who wants to stay at the party if they’re not invited to dance?

At the same time, it’s not enough to score high on inclusion surveys (which we consistently do) if the population being surveyed is homogenous. This is why part of our strategic visioning process included identifying specific actions we will take to increase the diversity of firm leadership and amplify the voices of people of color across the firm.


The equity category is another great example of the magic of the Just label at work. We are 100% employee-owned and have had a majority female staff for several years. In an industry where women are critically underrepresented, we’re proud that so many women offer their expertise at the firm.

As female-friendly as we are, Just’s measurement tools encouraged us to investigate more deeply, and as a result of that work, we have adopted strategies to reach two new objectives: promote more women into senior leadership and create more supportive structures for people who balance work and family.

Again, having more than 50% women isn’t enough. SERA’s practices need to include, respond to, and be invested in the success of women. 

These are just two topics that the Just program has encouraged us to investigate. It isn’t always easy, and the realities are sometimes difficult to face, but we’re grateful that the Just program, run by a well-respected industry partner like ILFI, compels us to have the tough conversations and do the work to improve.

It’s one more way we’re building the change we want to see.

Thanks to Rebecca Grace, Travis Dang, and Walter Currin for collaborating on this piece.

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