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There has been much discussion raised about "Why are women leaving Architecture? and more broadly, Why is the profession loosing key talent?"  Both women and men practitioners are disillusioned by the myth of work/life balance: Women are grappling with "have it all" expectations of juggling family time with the demands of full-time work.  Men are struggling to support their families solely on an architect's salary and fall back on asking spouses to maintain their jobs. The lack of affordable childcare and high cost of living only magnifies the challenges.  How did we end up in this modern family dilemma? What can we do to improve the situation?

INSPIRE%: No Longer Missing. Pamela Tang's Return to Architecture

INSPIRE% is our new initiative where will we present personal stories of amazing people who embody our vision of equitable practice, fostering and keeping talent within the profession and elevating the value of Architecture to society.  Our first interview is one of the most inspirational of all.

Pamela Tang, Project Manager at Barcelon + Jang Architecture shares her story of success and perseverance; how she re-entered the profession after taking an extended leave of absence to raise her four children. 

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Save the Date: Equity by Design Saturday Oct. 18, 2014

AIA San Francisco - The Missing 32% Project presents:

Equity by Design: Knowledge, Discussion, Action!

Saturday, October 18, 2014 ( 8:00 am – 5:00 pm )

@ San Francisco Art Institute: 800 Chestnut Street, San Francisco

Registration begins August 4, 2014


The Missing 32% Project serves as a call to action for both women and men who mutually believe that equitable practice is critical to advancing Architecture as a sustainable profession and a key to communicating its true value to society. Our mission is to understand the pinch points that can occur during career progression and champion best practices for the recruitment, hiring, promotion and retention of our profession’s top talent in order to expand diversity, increase career opportunities and ultimately raise awareness of the invaluable services that Architects provide.

In the beginning of 2014, The Missing 32% Project launched the first ever Equity in Architecture Survey as part of a multi-year research project to promote the discussion and inspire change within the profession. The overwhelming response from the local and national community contributed to a research effort that has helped to provide a glimpse into the status of the profession and the challenges that must be addressed to preserve its value and relevance for future generations.

This year, join AIA San Francisco: The Missing 32% Project for our 3rd symposium that is named for our ambitious mission. Equity by Design: Knowledge, Discussion, Action! will be a day of highly informative and inspiring program to be held at the San Francisco Art Institute, one of the city's richest architectural assets with dynamic and interactive spaces.  We will be presenting the long awaited results of the Equity in Architecture Survey in panel discussions focused in 3 major knowledge sessions: Hiring & Retention, Growth & Development, Meaning and Influence. These will set the stage for highly interactive small break-out sessions in a variety of relevant topics and formats where we will use our design thinking skills to problem solve the challenging issues that confront architects, emerging professionals, and firm leadership in empowering and actionable ways to transform the profession.

Sample Agenda (PDF Download) and Break-Out Session Topics:

Hiring and Retention:

1. You’re Hired! Strategies for a stand-out resume, portfolio and interview.

2. Designing Culture: Workplace innovations to attract, grow & keep talent.

3. What's Flex Got to do with it? Win-Win Strategies that Work for Life

Growth and Development

1. Confidence vs. Competence - Knowing and Leveraging Our Worth.

2. Negotiation is a Power Tool: Strategies for effective outcomes.

3. What is your Brand? Why Does it Matter? - A Social Media Boot Camp

Meaning and Influence

1. Cultivating Leaders: Bridging the Gap from Merit to Success

2. Multi-Disciplinary Practice: Expanding the Influence of Architecture

3. From Employee to Entrepreneur: What does it take to succeed?


We would like to thank our many generous sponsors for supporting The Missing 32% Project this year. (For a full list of sponsoring companies and websites please visit here)

If you would like to be a sponsor of this important mission, please contact us.

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How to Advance Women in Architecture? A Chat with Rosa Sheng at BAR Architects

BAR Architects recently formed a discussion and support group amongst women architects and emerging professionals with the goal of empowering each other towards advancement and leadership opportunities within the profession. We share tools and methods with each other for how to get there, bring up relevant personal experiences, discuss articles and books, make internal presentations to the rest of the group for our passion areas, and overall strive to prepare a more fertile ground for women’s advancement both within our office and outside of it in the larger community. This collective knowledge about barriers, histories, opportunities, strengths and weaknesses are helping us cultivate the change we want to see.
We recently invited Rosa Sheng to our office for one of these discussions.  Rosa and I met about a year ago before The Missing 32% Project was launched and quickly became friends. She is a Senior Associate at Bohlin Cywinski Jackson, a Board of Director at AIA San Francisco and the chairperson for The Missing 32% Project Committee. She has an unmatched passion and drive for this cause.

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Can Design Solve the Confidence Conundrum?

When the Atlantic featured The Confidence Gap article in early April about Claire Shipman and Katty Kay's new book, The Confidence Code, there was a tidal wave of response, both in agreement and counterpoint of their take that women's confidence challenges are heavily genetically driven and therefore an unavoidable impediment to their success.  Shipman and Kay postulate that women lack self-assurance relative to their male competitors. In a study referenced, women would not apply for a job unless they had 100 percent of the qualifications, men would apply even if they only met 60 percent. And even if women are truly qualified and competent, their is constant self-doubt, anxiety, guilt and apologies about under-performing when the reality is far from critical self-perception.

A tidal wave of debate came in its wake voicing concerns of strongly flawed theory that will further hinder women's professional advancement. Jessica Valenti's article The Female Confidence Gap is a Sham in The Guardian argues that the Confidence Gap theory is driven by varying degrees of societal gender bias, rather than biological differences between men and women.

"The "confidence gap" is not a personal defect as much as it is a reflection of a culture that gives women no reason to feel self-assured. ...A Women's lack of confidence could actually just be a keen understanding of just how little American society values them."

If encouraging women to be more confident in seeking leadership roles and in turn teach self-assurance to others that results in meaningful change for future generations – we as a society need to start by creating a culture that values and supports assertive women. 

Similarly, Tracy Moore echoes that perspective in her Jezebel piece Solve Sexism with Overconfidence, hope and changing your brain. Moore's issue with the Confidence Gap is rooted in how women are presented as "lacking" confidence vs. looking at men as being overconfident. Thus, the skewed frame of reference (and burden of fixing) is focused on women. 

"So when the authors call it a "confidence gap," I have to wonder why they didn't call it an "overconfidence gap"? Is the problem women not thinking they are good enough, or men thinking they are better than they are? In other words, they totally wrote the article like the women they describe: too willing to point the finger at themselves.

After hearing both sides of the discussion, the relevant points of this complex issue lead us to consider the Confidence Conundrum: Do we accept a gender biased status quo and put the onus of achieving equitable advancement on qualified competent women to work harder, stronger, smarter with a heaping dose of self-help induced confidence, (without complaint) to overcome systemic gender challenges? Or, If Equity rides more heavily on fixing a gender biased society that requires major systemic change, where do we begin the disruptive, long and challenging road to shifting the current culture. And realistically, as true systemic culture shifts happen over decades and generations, will our generation get to experience gender blindness and true Equity in Architectural Practice in our career lifetime? 

As Architects, we are trained to solve design problems of aesthetic and technical complexity.  At times, many of our design projects have had a conundrum-like quality with diametrically opposed factors pulling and pushing us to near points of despair. The iterative, dynamic and morphing nature of the design process that is subjected to constant internal and external critique can be applied in our approach for seeking solutions to the Confidence Conundrum and concurrently in Equitable Practice.  While considering the powerful potential of supporting Equity by way of Design Thinking, I came across a parallel strategy. Could design thinking help bridge the Confidence Gap? by Anne Gibbon for The Stanford D School uses Strategic Design Thinking to address the gender bias / confidence conundrum in Technology. It all started with a simple question on a whiteboard: If you were to take on the challenge of growing the number of women in leadership roles, how would you go about it?  Anne's strategy of taking her idea and quickly creating an actionable prototype worked for her own self-coaching for leadership goals.

What if we applied our years of architectural design training and critical thinking to individual and collective challenges of licensure, career advancement, recognition, work life flexibility and retention of Women in Architecture? Is there a way to leverage our training to test and critique best practices that promote Equity? And how do we track what we implement is working? Concurrent with the results of the Equity in Architecture Survey and ongoing research initiatives, we will be hosting a series of discussions on this topic culminating this fall with the 3rd Symposium for The Missing 32% Project: Equity by Design. So Stay tuned.

By Rosa T. Sheng, AIA LEED AP BD+C









Why We Need To Stop Bragging About How Busy We Are

In a recent article by a similar name on Fast Company, Lisa Evans critically evaluates the “culture of busy”: the expectation of working long hours and the bragging rights that come with it.  She explains that “logging in long hours and complaining about not having any time in the day is considered a status symbol and a sign of success.” She references  Brigid Schulte’s recent book Overwhelmed: Work, Love, and Play When No One Has the Timereflects on how adjusted workplace values can positively influence a company.  By example, large organizations from The Pentagon to small start up tech companies have successfully modified the way employees and managers place quality over quantity: increasing creativity and productivity while creating a more flexible work environment.

 “In the breaks, that’s where the ‘aha moment’ comes,” says Schulte. It’s in the moments of leisure time that the brain is working to solve issues so you can begin your next burst of intense work with a renewed perspective.

“When you look at human performance science, there’s such great evidence that working all of those hours really doesn’t get you where you want to go,” says Schulte. While you may be able to work a few 60-hour weeks, eventually you will be so burnt out that you lose the ability to be creative and innovative.

For architects, the “culture of busy” begins at the university level and extends throughout our careers.  In school the culture of the “all-nighter” is rampant from the very first weeks.  The pressure to complete a perfect color wheel freshman year feels very similar to completing a flawless thesis several years later.  Many students experience the same pressure to work late by their peers, professors, and a competitive desire to do their best work.  Working long hours often feels like the best and only way to win a travel grant or fellowship.  Some professors further this culture by arriving to studios in the middle of the night for spontaneous critiques and pinups that last until dawn.  At Design firms with this culture, it is common for architects to stay late, sending a completion email to the boss well past midnight ensuring it has a timestamp. 

If an organization as large and tiered as the Pentagon can change its culture, is it possible for architectural practice to do the same? And if so, what steps can we take to support a culture that merits performance over long hours clocked in? What initiatives have been started in your office that have worked to foster change?

By Ashley Hinton

From Groundbreaking to Ceiling Shattering: What's Next?

The Equity in Architecture Survey 2014 closed this past Monday, March 24th with nearly 2300 responses (more than double of our original goal of 1000!).  We received positive comments, encouragement and supporters as well as a lot of constructive feedback on how to improve the survey questions for our next go around.  We made many new friends along the way, through Twitter, Linked In, and Facebook.  It has been an amazing journey to get to this milestone of closing the survey, and yet our work has just begun.  Luckily, eating our whale seams less daunting with 2300 more diners at the table.

If you would like to continue being a part of this research study, there are many ways to help and we would appreciate your continued support and participation.

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Equity in Architecture Survey - Extended to Monday March 24th

UPDATE! The Equity in Architecture Survey has been extended to Monday, March 24, 2014. It will officially close at end of business day at 5:00pm PST  Please encourage your firm, colleagues, friends and alumni to take the survey earlier if possible. If you have started the survey, but have not completed it, you can log back in from the SAME computer and continue where you left off.  You need to submit the survey completed to qualify for the drawing.

To take the survey or find out more about it. Click the link below.

Must we "Lean In" or "Opt Out"? Keep Calm and Let's Mambo!

Last Friday, I read The Washington Post, She the People article by Rosa Brooks entitled "Why I hate Sheryl Sandberg" ending with a bravado "Manifestus for the rest of us".  Brooks, whose piece went viral, proposes a revolutionary proposition: Before all the "Leaning In" causes burn out, opting out, and self-sabotage of their careers (resulting in even fewer women in the workforce), women should "Recline" and declare limits for themselves in our increasingly "Maxed Out" world. It’s an epiphany she came to realize while “marking up a memo on U.S. drone policy while simultaneously ordering a custom-decorated cake for my daughter’s sixth grade musical cast party and planning my remarks for a roundtable on women in national security.”

And as I read this, I couldn't help but laugh (nervously) and think that while humorous and entertaining, much of what my namesake was saying was sadly true (and parallel to certain events in my own journey!). The harder we try to please and prove societal biases wrong, the harder we fall at failing to "have it all".  But, why is it that in this failure to achieve the impossible, women start blaming other women for taking polar opposite positions in the "Leaning In" OR "Opting Out" debate. No good will come out of it.

Why do we need to take one side over the other? If we are to survive and succeed in Life's Career Marathon, we (both women and men) would be in a better position with a mindset of striking a balance between "Leaning In" and "Reclining".  How about the Mambo, for instance?

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