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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?

Equity by Design: AtlAIAnta! Convention Recap

by Rosa Sheng

The AIA Convention in Atlanta was a refreshing and unexpected surprise for many with amazing keynote speakers, programs, networking events and opportunities to explore the city. The convention app this year was a great way to get a sense of what was happening elsewhere. The convention theme was IMPACT! and each day, the keynote speakers (featuring Former President Bill Clinton, Welby Atidor, and Julie Dixon) did not disappoint in bringing the message home. In order to advance, we must be seek to change the profession to be more innovative, more diverse in our collaboration, more equitable to represent the populations we serve and become better ambassadors for the value proposition for Architecture.

It was time for many firsts. The profound impact of social media allowed many of our events, such as the first ever Equity by Design Hackathon #EQxDHack15 (WE310) at an AIA Convention to be successful at conveying the message of the equity movement, but also having fun along the way, making new friends and creating connections beyond gender, age, and cultural backgrounds. Our audience in all 3 workshops (WE310, FR117, FR420) where the Equity in Architecture data was presented, consisted of diverse backgrounds and positive participation. There were men and women, new and seasoned, multicultural ethnicities, from all over the nation; the common thread was a desire to see our profession thrive with a commitment to action and the pursuit of equitable practice. All of this is a hopeful indication of the representation we would like to see for the profession in the near future.

Also notable was that many of the people that we had reached out to and met thru social media came together to meet for in person for the first time. It was an interesting conversation about re-inventing the traditional norms of networking (golf outings, fundraising dinners, etc) where many of those in the "social media" architecture and design community that had been conversing for years were meeting in person for the first time.

Yet another first, 2 galleries that recognized equity challenges and women in architecture. They were located near each other and facilitated the Equity discussion at convention. The Equity in Architecture early findings infographics were on display outside of B308 with healthy traffic and positive reception. The AIA Houston WIA Exhibit had a traveling gallery version that also had many visitors and discussion. 

The newly elected AIA National officers show promise not only for representing a diverse Board, but also carrying through with the change that the institute needs to remain relevant and impactful in the future. The officers are Thomas Vonier, President-elect for 2017, Stuart Coppedge, Treasurer. Jennifer Workman, L. Jane Frederick, and Anthony Schirripa will serve as Delegates at Large. Additionally, Don King, Thierry Paret, and Deepika Padaam will join them as elected Board members from the AIA Strategic Council. Robert Ivy mentioned Equity by Design: The Missing 32% Project research study as an inspiration for the AIA 2015 Diversity Survey. The early results of the AIA Diversity survey will be presented at the AIA Women's leadership summit in Seattle on September 18: Celebrating Women Leaders, Promoting Cultural Change. 

An overwhelming majority voted for Equity in Architecture Resolution 15-1 at AIA National Convention in Atlanta

An overwhelming majority voted for Equity in Architecture Resolution 15-1 at AIA National Convention in Atlanta

Perhaps the most exciting outcome of the convention was the success of advocacy for Resolution 15-1 Equity in Architecture that was co-authored with Julia Donoho, Frank Pitts and myself; co-sponsored by AIASF, AIACC; and supported by the AIA National Board of Directors, Strategic Council, AIA Diversity Council and Big Sibs. The list of supporters goes beyond this base, to all the 4117 AIA delegates who voted in support of the resolution. We are deeply grateful of the solidarity for equitable practice and excited for the work ahead. 

The following Storify link captures the highlights of the 4 days.

 

Other Sources for AIA National Convention Coverage:

Archispeak Podcasts - 3 special AIA convention episodes. Episode 60 includes a recap of EQxD Happy Hour.

Architect Magazine - Equity by Design: The Missing 32% Project Releases Complete Findings on Women in Architecture

 

Equity in Architecture Survey 2014: Final Report

May 14, 2015 San Francisco - The AIA San Francisco Equity by Design committee is pleased to announce the release the Equity in Architecture 2014 Survey Report. The report is available for viewing online immediately and a published version will be available later this year. We have deep gratitude for the generosity of sponsors and equity partners who have supported this important initiative.

While this is a broad overview "road map" of the analysis, there is potential for interpretation and further analysis. Nevertheless, the Equity in Architecture Survey 2014 Report is an effective means to start a much needed conversation. There will inevitably be more questions than answers to understand the findings. Please share this information with your colleagues, firms, alumni networks, and AIA Chapters. 

The research portion of the Missing 32% Project was envisioned as an endeavor with multiple stages, starting locally with the Bay Area, then expanding to the national scale with the ultimate goal of informing the global conversation on the issue of Equity in Architecture. Phase 1 of the project, a 90+ question survey conducted via Survey Monkey in February thru March 2014, explores the workplace participation and career aspirations of 2,289 participants with architectural degrees and experience in architectural practice within the United States. 

The disparity between male and female representation within the profession and limited leadership opportunities have been well documented and are a growing concern. Recognizing a paucity of similar research and documentation of best practices within the United States, Equity by Design’s mission is to supplement this conversation with more targeted information about our local and national community of practitioners.

Equity by Design: The Missing 32% Project

Equity by Design is a call to action for both women and men to realize the goal of equitable practice, advance architecture, sustain the profession and communicate the value of design to society. Our mission is to understand the pinch points and promote the strategic execution of best practices in the recruitment, retention, and promotion of our profession's best talent at every level of architectural practice.

Equity by Design is a committee of AIA San Francisco. The group is made up of a diverse cross section of the industry: participants include both men and women; new graduates and seasoned industry professionals; architects, designers, industry consultants, and those working in allied fields; those without children, parents who have continued to work full time in traditional practice and those who have devised alternative situations to accommodate the demands of raising a family. The group has dual aims. First, we seek to forge strong personal and professional ties amongst like minded individuals. Second, we aim to leverage these connections to achieve progress towards more equitable and sustainable practice across the field.


EQxD Symposium Breakout Recap: What’s Flex Got to Do With It?

by Jenny Guan

Overcommit, others first, do too much.

After-work exhaustion means ramen in bed.

Will day be crazy? Never know!

These are a sampling of six words stories contributed by attendees of the October 2014 Equity by Design symposium breakout session on work life balance: What’s Flex Got to Do With It? Win Win Strategies for Work Life-Flexibility. As we gleaned from the Missing 32% 2014 survey results, this was a topic that affects all in our profession, regardless of gender, years of experience, and firm role. This subject is also one that lends itself to many personal anecdotes, and our session focused on exploring strategies for finding that healthy equilibrium between work and life through the power of the personal narrative.

EQxD Symposium Sketch by Jenny Guan

EQxD Symposium Sketch by Jenny Guan

Prior to the symposium, attendees were asked to complete a quick activity: provide two (very short) stories, six words each; one for their relationship to the day to day experience, and one in the context of major life events such as family or medical emergencies, childbirth, or career sabbatical. The prompt also requested volunteers from those those that were interested in expanding on their six words by presenting their experience on stage during the breakout session, forming a springboard for productive dialog.

Our panelists, Carole Wedge (principal, Shepley Bulfinch) and Francis Pitts (principal, Architecture+), kicked off the session by sharing their own stories of how they achieve healthy live-work balance in their personal lives and in their practices. Carole emphasized the importance of an enriching life outside the office, while Francis shared how the death of a firm partner’s spouse led to a reevaluation of how the office approached flexible working schedules to accommodate the curve balls of life.

Symposium Attendees learning about Work/ Life Flex photo by Daniel Wang

Symposium Attendees learning about Work/ Life Flex

photo by Daniel Wang

The audience storytelling portion followed, first with presentations of the various short stories submitted beforehand. Those mere six words revealed tales of frustration (little room at office for emotion), priorities (my daughters only have one childhood), challenging questions (sick kid: work or make soup?), tales with endings (had baby, had to leave architecture), successful strategies (after kids, office allowed flex, telecommute), and wise words (at least one hour should be happy).

Three volunteer storytellers, their names randomly picked from a bag, took the stage to share their experiences on their battle against the culture of busy. These three minute tales were amplified by dialog from Carole and Francis as they offered up personal perspectives and potential solutions.

The last narrative of the hour underlined the importance of bringing these stories into the public realm: the attendee related an experience where her once-enthusiastic clients questioned her abilities and commitment to their project once she informed them of her upcoming wedding. In three minutes, the relevant topics of gender perception, client misconceptions, and the challenges of “achieving it all” were identified and presented for further dialog. Are women subject to more scrutiny in their pursuit of work/life balance? What could be done to educate those we serve in this profession? How can we communicate our ability to stay on task in the office while we pursue our lives outside of it?

At the end of the session, many names were still left in the bag- untold stories that signified a desire to share and an eagerness to spark a conversation. Although many of these experiences were ones in search of solutions within ourselves, our practices, and our industry, some served up words through a much more panoramic lens:

No day has balance, only years.

Work can always wait. Life's important.

Work life balance is always perspective.

We will continue this conversation about work life balance in the architecture field at the 2nd of 4 EQxD "U" Workshops - What's Flex got to do with Success?  (Win-Win Strategies for Work/Life Flexibility) on June 11 at SF AIA.

We will explore the complexities of making work and life "work" together to fulfill your maximum potential while enjoying the journey along the way. Work life flexibility emerged as a major theme of last year's Equity in Architecture survey. Flexibility was one of the most important ways that our survey respondents defined success in their careers. The survey also shows that inflexible schedules and long hours are a real burden on our field - a significant portion of respondents had turned down opportunities or promotions due to issues of flexibility, people are leaving the field due to long hours and low pay, and taxing work schedules are a major obstacle to licensure.

 

EQxD "U" Workshop #2 - What's Flex got to do with Success? Meet the Panelists!

by Amber Evans

June 11th, 2015 @AIASF 130 Sutter Street, San Francisco 6pm-8:30pm

We are excited to bring you the 2nd of 4 EQxD "U" Workshops - What's Flex got to do with Success?  (Win-Win Strategies for Work/Life Flexibility)

We will explore the complexities of making work and life "work" together to fulfill your maximum potential while enjoying the journey along the way.

Work life flexibility emerged as a major theme of last year's Equity in Architecture survey. Flexibility was one of the most important ways that our survey respondents defined success in their careers. The survey also shows that inflexible schedules and long hours are a real burden on our field - a significant portion of respondents had turned down opportunities or promotions due to issues of flexibility, people are leaving the field due to long hours and low pay, and taxing work schedules are a major obstacle to licensure. 

Our panel will feature 4 design professionals from diverse backgrounds; different stages of life and professional practice. All 4 share their insights on the constant dance between practice, life and everything in between. Following a summary of key survey findings on work life flexibility and caregiving, we will engage the panelists in an interactive Q&A. The second half of the session will leverage break-out groups to dive deep and propose actionable solutions to the work life flexibility challenges discussed.

Workshop Agenda

  • Networking & Refreshments 6:00-6:15 pm
  • Introductions/ Welcome 6:15-6:25pm
  • Panel Discussion 6:25-7:15pm
  • Break/ Transition 7:15-7:20pm
  • Break-Out Groups/ Storytelling 7:20-8:10pm
  • Report Back on Break-out Groups/ Conclusions 8:10-8:30pm

MEET THE PANELISTS! (and the amazing firms they lead)

Jeffery Till, AIA, LEED AP

Design Principal, Perkins + Will

Jeffrey Till has is an architect and leader in sustainable development, with twenty five years of architectural and master planning experience in North America, Asia, and Europe. He leads design on a range of projects for clients with high level sustainability goals, with a focus on research driven, multidisciplinary process and performance strategies. He has taught sustainable architecture at Stanford University, advised on green planning strategies, and is served on the national AIA working group on energy modeling, helping architects bring advanced tools to everyday practice.

Perkins+Will is an interdisciplinary, research-based architecture and design firm established in 1935 and founded on the belief that design has the power to transform lives and enhance communities. Each of the firm’s 24 offices focuses on local, regional and global work in a variety of practice areas. With hundreds of award-winning projects annually, Perkins+Will is ranked as one of the top global design firms. Perkins+Will is recognized as one of the industry’s preeminent sustainable design firms due to its innovative research, design tools, and expertise. The firm's 1,700 professionals are thought leaders developing 21st century solutions to inspire the creation of spaces in which clients and their communities work, heal, live, and learn. Social responsibility is a fundamental aspect of Perkins+Will’s culture and every year the company donates 1% of its design services to pro bono initiatives. In 2015, Fast Company ranked Perkins+Will among “The World’s Top 10 Most Innovative Companies in Architecture.”  

Kirstin Weeks, LEED AP

Senior Energy and Building Ecology Specialist, Arup

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Kirstin Weeks is a senior Energy and Building Ecology Specialist at Arup.  She champions the San Francisco office’s Net Positive Design initiative, and specializes in biophilic design and integration of ecological function in the built environment.  Kirstin works with interdisciplinary teams to create resilient built environments that work like ecosystems, eliminating waste as a concept and supporting wellness, biodiversity, regeneration and reliance on renewable resources.  Her project experience extends from sustainability leadership on large office, civic, academic and industrial projects to city-scale plan development, research and cost-benefit studies. Kirstin holds an A.B. in Environmental Studies from Dartmouth and an M.S. in Building Science from UC Berkeley. 

Founded in 1985 as the first office in the Americas, the San Francisco Arup office is one of the largest in the region, delivering smart holistic solutions for their clients, with a focus on diversity and maintaining strong connections with our local community. The staff are well versed in smart land use, optimizing transit solutions, sustainable design, healthy buildings, and material choices. Resilience is at the forefront of their design solutions, due to the seismic concerns posed by nearby major earthquake faults and the issues raised by climate change. The San Francisco office has a strong portfolio in the design of buildings and infrastructure. These are supported by our offerings in specialized consulting services including acoustics, transportation planning, and transaction advice. Key projects in these sectors include the LEED Platinum San Francisco Public Utilities Commission Headquarters, the Project, Concord, and the Transbay. They are also highly versed in healthcare, arts and culture, and campus design projects, including both educational and corporate campus projects. Recent work includes the UCSF Medical Center at Mission BaySan Francisco General HospitalSan Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and the Stanford Graduate School of Business.

Annette Jannotta, Architect, IIDA, LEED AP ID&C

Interior Architect, Flad Architects

Annette Jannotta is an interior architect with Flad Architects San Francisco.  Since childhood, she has been fascinated by creating stories and characters that inspire her to make spaces (hello Barbie’s Condo!).  She found her way to studying architecture at the University of Florida and realized that through design she could share her passion with others. Originally from South Florida, Annette left the warm Atlantic waters to design interiors for award-winning firms in Los Angeles, Singapore and San Francisco.  Many of her current and former clients are leaders in their industries and are always passionate about what they do.  They include Warner Bros., Stanford University, Rhino Records, Genentech, Singapore Changi Airport, and even the beloved late Bay Area Feng Shui master, Liu Ming. Always in pursuit of creative expression, Annette strives to balance and integrate her passion for design, photography, art installation, writing and travel, with enjoying time with her husband, extended family and two very spoiled cats.

Flad Architects is an award-winning design firm delivering high performance environments that enable our clients to elevate their potential and advance their mission. Recognized as a leader in academic, life sciences, technology and workplace design, the firm has been honored with over 90 design awards (74 AIA, 12 IIDA and 8 Lab of the Year).  By leveraging specialized expertise across eight locations including San Francisco, Seattle and New York, Flad delivers transformational design solutions as a single organism. We have earned a reputation for outstanding client service, fiscal responsibility, and design excellence over our 85-year history. Flad’s commitment to sustainable design has driven the completion of more than 50 LEED certified buildings—including the first Platinum process science facility.

Douglas Speckhard, AIA, LEED AP

Associate, Bohlin Cywinski Jackson

Douglas Speckhard joined Bohlin Cywinski Jackson in 1998, working in the Pittsburgh office and contributing to a variety of projects, including the Rensselaer Biotechnology Center, Yale University's Chemistry Research Building, and the Natural Sciences Building at the University of California, San Diego. Since relocating to the San Francisco office in 2003, Doug has participated in a number of projects, including the Macromedia Headquarters (now Adobe), and has worked on both corporate and academic facilities in the master planning and design phases. Doug’s most recent experience has been on a creative campus project for a large entertainment company in the Los Angeles area. Doug served as Project Architect during the master planning and conceptual design of the Core Shell phases, which developed naturally into a role as Project Manager for the Interior Fit out, working closely with the client, users and an interdisciplinary team to develop a cutting edge, collaborative workplace for a demanding internet, gaming and mobile device business unit of a large entertainment company.

Bohlin Cywinski Jackson is noted for elegant and humane design, ranging from modest houses to large academic, civic, cultural, commercial and corporate buildings. The principals and staff are deeply committed to active collaboration with our clients, emphasizing thorough research and analysis of each situation's particular human, technical and economic circumstances. The result is exceptional architecture that resonates within its place. Since 1965, Bohlin Cywinski Jackson has received more than 625 regional, national and international design awards, including three AIA Committee on the Environment (COTE) Top Ten Green Projects. Bohlin Cywinski Jackson are the recipients of the American Institute of Architects Architecture Firm Award, the most prestigious honor bestowed upon an architectural practice by the Institute. The founding principal, Peter Bohlin, was awarded the Gold Medal by the American Institute of Architects, the highest honor an individual American architect can receive.

Work Life Flexibility in the News: (must reads before the event!)

Harvard Business Review: 

Millennials Say They’ll Relocate for Work-Life Flexibility

Why some men pretend to work 80 hours a week

New York Times: 

The Unspoken Stigma of Workplace Flexibility

How Some Men Fake an 80-Hour Workweek, and Why It Matters

Huffington Post: 

Forget Balance: 5 Things You Can Do to Lead the Life You Want

 

 

 

EQxD Event Sponsorship

We are seeking sponsors for our ambitious 2015 Equity by Design Initiatives. If you are interested in supporting our goals for achieving equitable practice in architecture, please contact us to learn more about the multiple benefits for your support. Among other benefits, Sponsors get designated tickets for each of the workshops in 2015 based on your level of support. So make the most of your sponsorship by contacting us early! 

 

 

EQxD Get Real: The Long and Winding Road

by Tara Imani | AIA, NCIDQ, CSI

17 women, out of 84 students, graduated from the School of Architecture at The Ohio State University in 1987. I was one of them. I had commuted from the far east side of Columbus, where I lived at home with my working mom. I had accrued over $250 in parking fines, hulking large art projects and models on the elongated, wobbly, fast-moving campus buses.  What I savored most, though, were the long, quiet walks from the design studio to my car at 3:00 am in the morning, resolving parti diagrams and concepts in my mind while wishfully thinking I could make the 30 minute drive home, sleep, shower and dress and be back by 8:00 am.

IDP Internships- "Let the Games Begin”

You don't jump from academia to working in a reputable firm without some real world experience under your belt.  This was a contentious topic among some of us in senior studios. I recall becoming discouraged by one girl who said people get hired based on their good looks. I was like, what?!! You mean all this hard work is for naught?

Fortunately, I found work. I didn't care what kind of work they did, I simply wanted to secure a position with a firm ASAP. We did high school renovations and roof replacements on parks and recs buildings.

After working for two good firms in Columbus, Ohio, my husband (a Chemist at the time) and I decided to move to Orange County, California. I snagged a job while vacationing out there and visiting our close friends who'd moved there a year prior.  That job ended up not being a good fit for me culturally so I began looking for work during my lunch break.  I finally found a position as a project manager for a firm in Santa Ana that specialized in designing custom theme restaurants.  Unfortunately, that business hit a rough spot and I was without a job. I was very scared.  There we were, out in Orange County living in a newly purchased home in Rancho Santa Margarita.  We were attending Rick Warren's church at Saddleback and his positive sermons encouraged me.  I prayed and asked God to bless my efforts to find a job that week.  So, on Monday, I opened the Yellow Pages and I began systematically calling all firms starting at the beginning of the alphabet.  I landed an interview with a firm in Laguna Beach, IB Christian Abel Architects, and was offered a job as a draftsperson the following Thursday.  I was elated.

While there, I began to study for the A.R.E. exam. In June of 1992, after studying for only 4 sections, I sat for the entire 9 exams in San Diego.  I passed the 4 exams that I'd studied for.  On the 12-hour hand-drawn Design Exam, I left 4 hours into it, at noon, after reading what seemed like an endless program of spaces and design criteria. I had only managed to draw two exterior walls.  I had no strategy and was lost and exhausted.  I walked out feeling down but not defeated.

A Bold Move to Houston in October 1992

My husband's relative is an RN and she pitched a deal that drew us to Houston to start a home health and infusion therapy company.  The plan was that I would help them out for a few months with the start-up and then get back into architecture.  I even went on an interview with a local home-building company but didn't get the job.  Everyone was using AutoCAD and I had no experience with it.  So, I chose to work at Infinity Care, Inc in several capacities, on many executive levels, serving on the Board of Directors, and forming the foundation for the billing department and setting up and running the Human Resources department. As a co-founder and part-owner, I was willing to do anything and everything to keep the business going.  I really enjoyed it.  Thus, I was "an intern-architect doing other things."

However, I felt badly about about having left the field of architecture. But one day, while reading to my husband's nieces, I read about Thomas Jefferson and all that he had done. I realized that it's O.K. to have more than one major interest in life. So, in February, 1995, with the blessing of the CEO/President and Board of Directors, I took a leave of absence from the home health care company and embarked on an ambitious study plan with the goal of knocking out the 5 remaining exams.  I passed all but one, the monstrous 12-hour Design exam (even though I participated in the TAMU - Texas A&M University -  architecture ARE workshop where they did a full 12-hour mock exam, simulating the true experience. it seemed I still needed more experience to pass that portion of the exam).

Finding My Compass Again & Starting a Family

After selling the Medicare portion of the company in October1997, I was floundering. I stayed on with the new ownership to assist with the transition, but I was not happy. In February 1998, I resigned my position to stay at home.  It was delightful respite to be at home in a quiet suburban setting and just do nothing except to sit in the sun on the back patio and read a book or lay on the couch and listen to music. I cooked some Persian foods for dinner and I explored some independent study courses in the local community college.  But I was growing antsy.  I wanted to go back into architecture, but wasn't sure what type of firm I wanted to work for. 

I was offered two jobs and had a choice to make: 1) To work for a sole proprietor in the Rice University area where I'd be expected on the residential job site at 6:00 a.m. but would get the opportunity to help build the infrastructure of his fledgling firm (writing policies and procedures, etc.) or 2) to work for a medium size firm that primarily did food stores.  I would be handling their new gas station projects.  After discussing with my husband, he recommended I go with the bigger firm for stability.  So, I started there in May 1998 as a project coordinator and then went into the fixture-planning (space plan design) division so I could learn AutoCAD.  Frankly, working with AutoCAD was a very alienating experience for me.  I felt like a complete fish out of water.  In June, 1999, I grew very disenchanted with my role in the firm.  I didn't know in what direction I was headed and I felt completely dissatisfied.  I was 36 and wanted to start a family, so I put in my two-week notice.  In August, 1999, God blessed us and I became pregnant with our first and only child, Aryana.  It was a miracle!  I was overjoyed.

Hard Transitions: From Career Girl to Archimom

After I gave birth to Aryana in April, 2000,  I had no notions to return to work anytime soon. There was a lot of tension among family members who thought I should get back to work. I, on the other hand, really wanted to linger in my “Blue Lagoon” lifestyle, playing with building blocks and painting pottery with my daughter. The other part of me wanted very much to run my own firm or to establish a small studio from home.  I was torn.

When my daughter was about 8 months old, I was growing antsy again and held a pow-wow with my husband, laying out my ten-point plan to reach certain goals.

At the top of my list was finishing the one remaining licensing exam (by this time, the 12-hour exam had become two 4-hour computer-graphic exams). With this new change, I felt there was light at the end of the tunnel as, I reasoned, time management would be much less of an issue.

 Self-Discipline At Home

Playtime was over for me! It was time to buckle down and get serious. We had hired a nanny to care for our daughter so I could get some stuff done around the house and prepare for the two exams (Building Design and Building Technology).  This is where life balance becomes front and center stage in your life.  You must decide what do you want to accomplish? Do you want it badly enough?

I would spend one hour meditating, getting my mind in a positive mental state prior to studying.  This was the key to my success.  Without this positive mental preparation, there would have been no way I could pass those exams.  And I would often study at a nearby library for more focused attention.

And so it was. On October, 2001, I successfully passed my remaining exams and became a Registered Architect.

Working From My Home Office

Once licensed, I had business cards made and let family and friends know that I was looking for work.  I was nudged by one of our close friends, a Mechanical Engineer in the Oil & Gas Industry, to start working on small projects.  He asked me to design his wife’s Skin Care Clinic and from there, more small projects began rolling in and I was able to handle them on the boards, using my trusty hand-drafting techniques.  No AutoCAD necessary.  I did small residential renovations and space planning and design for lease space build-outs.  I was very satisfied with the low project pace that enabled me to fully participate in my daughter's school and extracurricular activities.

In 2008, I returned to work at the same firm where I'd managed the fueling station projects.  It was a great opportunity and I learned a lot about "modern day" computing which had changed considerably since 1999.  It was, once again, a different world.  But this time, I did not feel like a fish out of water.  I felt right at home, although I would have liked to have known AutoCAD (such a thorn in my side, it would seem!).

Then, suddenly, the Great Recession hit and the firm laid off up to 40% of their staff, including me. I did not transition well to becoming unemployed.  Part of me was hurt and upset, the other part of me knew that I was poised for something even better.  Finding out what that was became my focus.

The Onslaught of Social Media

I found the AIA KnowledgeNet site and was thrilled to see other architects sharing their ideas on how to improve the profession and other pertinent discussions.  This led to joining Twitter to participate in a #TweetChat led by @aiaNational.  I have used LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and now my own blog to get the word out about our profession and what we can do to improve it.

Sharpening Skills, Not Adding Acronyms

In 2011 or so, I received a letter from TBAE letting me know I was eligible to sit for the Interior Design Exam.  Some of my peers thought it was superfluous to do so, that being an Architect superseded becoming an Interior Designer.  Yet, I decided that I wanted to earn the well-respected and coveted NCIDQ certificate and taking the exam was the only way to do so.  Yes, it was an involved process, but I’m glad I did it.  I sat for the first exam in March 2012 and became licensed in December 2013. It was a good “refresher course.”  Next up: attaining CDT from CSI and possibly LEED AP… we’ll see.

Future Goals

My daughter is now a Freshman in High School and this requires a new kind of parental focus.  And with the economy improving, I have had two of my busiest years in 2013-2014. My firm designed and managed the concept, layout, and interior design for a Barbershop and Salon lease space build-out for a prominent sports figure and value-engineered an interiors project for the common areas of a new student housing project currently under construction in San Marcos, TX. I look forward to breaking into the healthcare arena, specifically doing the interiors for a series of assisted living centers.

About Tara Imani @Parthenon1

After earning a B.S. in Architecture from The Ohio State University, Tara worked for various firms in Columbus, Ohio, Laguna Beach, and Houston, gaining project and design experience in the public and private sectors. She also co-founded a successful home health care company.

 

 

 

EQxD Get Real - To read more about challenges and resilience from diverse viewpoints, go here.

In a similar spirit of spontaneity of the Archimom's Everyday Moments of Truth blog series, we are excited to bring you EQxD Get Real: True stories of Challenges and Resilience from diverse perspectives of architects and designers. Each day we will feature the stories of each person's challenges in the profession and what they learned from those experiences to inspire action for equitable practice in architecture.

EQxD Get Real: Is the world ready for real talk?

by Karen E. Williams

Is the world ready for real talk? The better question is, am I ready for real talk?

No.  No I am not.  I am not ready to let the general practitioner know that I am vulnerable, when they have not earned my trust. I am conflicted to let past, present and future bosses know that I am affected by their perception of me, by their opinions.  Sharing my obstacles in professional practice will not dissolve once posted on the internet. I fear that they will be public and follow me in my career.  Yet I am drawn to share my experiences and perspective.  My journey is my journey. And I hope that by sharing a piece of mine that I will inspire the people who really know me to be courageous and resilient professionals. We are a sum of all of our actions and I am continuing to learn from all of mine. The moments that I am sharing are past experiences that have helped me to grow in my journey of enlightenment.

Recognizing the obvious is not the focus.

Without my doing, I have intrinsic obstacles. External factors of race and gender that I can not change. Some other preconceived opinions of me vary based on the person’s perspective.  Some of these include: Too young looking, over confident and too young to know what I am talking about.  My parents are a combined 84 years older than me (one being 72 and the other 82). I grew up learning from their past experiences and learning from my siblings before I was anywhere near to having to make the same decisions. Growing up in Jamaican culture, children are seen and not heard.  I heard everything and absorbed it all. Their journeys affected my decision making. Their obstacles made me mindful and somewhat conservative in my approach to some life decisions.  Later, this knowledge I owned beyond my age.  My current Principals would have parents who are the same age as mine.  Obviously it's different based on when they grew up.  The age of our parents does not put us on the same level of experience but sometimes overcoming the age bias is not impossible. I owned it and embraced it.

Though they are a part of my identity, my race and gender are not the sum of my value.  I am more than #233 on the University of Cincinnati Directory of African American Architects.  I am a teacher, follower, leader, mentor and professional.  I seek to only be regarded for my knowledge capital applied to making great architecture.  Intentionally I prefer to believe that people do not sum me up for my race; so that will not be a focus for me.  I would much rather believe that we are progressing past the obvious identity traits.

Exhibit a proof of value. Having a voice is a means to opportunity.  

When I came out of architecture school I was very timid. Scared. Small in speech and stature.  Innocent. I was intimidated by all professionals, which was the direct opposite of who I was in school.  In the professional arena I had to learn to be intentional in my speech.  I had to illustrate through descriptive speech that I actually know and understand what I am talking about.  People didn't just take what I had to contribute at face value.  Their reaction concluded that I could not possibly know what I was talking about. My intentional speech led to me being considered a “know it all”.  There was feedback surmising that I needed to ask more questions of other senior staff.  Basically,  I need to ask questions in order to prove to them that I wanted to learn and that I was learning.  Looking things up to get my own understanding was not enough.  Which then turned into not asking questions to which you already know the response.  Frustrating. When did we get to the point where we are not allowed to be mentally independant? I am scared of many events that can take place in a career path. The one that scares me the most is not having the ability to speak. To vocalize is an opportunity to connect, collaborate and reach resolution.  Communication is the key to all of our project interactions.  My decision to stand up for what I believe in inspired me to use my voice as a commitment to supporting change.  After all change is the only true constant. I will continue to grow through experiences, feedback and knowledge.

On my first project, my Project Manager openly listened. I was quiet, reserved and unsure about my place to speak. But his willingness to listen and the willingness of my team members (who were all 10 years in experience to me), to treat me as an equal at the table,  made all the difference.  My project manager nurtured my voice and my confidence. I will be forever grateful.

That dirty Ego.

Our profession is intrinsically egotistical. We exhibit control over each other. Create our own levels of hierarchy and determine each other's roadmap for professional growth through designed hierarchy.  We rank ourselves by likability.  We identify favorite characteristics and insert opinions to validate the system. This has a domino affect on how we treat one another professionally. Instead of showing support and uplifting each other’s qualities, we fight against one another to matter, to be seen, to be validated.  When a person is not considered for their value, there is a ripple effect in their interactions with others.

On one of my past projects a team leader inflicted control and demand on me, when they were not recognized for their value.  There was a breakdown in communication between the leader and manager.  The leader had their own work plan in mind. The project manager had other goals and interests which he had assigned for me to complete. My ego got wrapped up in the drama too. I didn't help because I had my own issues.  From this experience I learned to be more aware of my teammate’s obstacles.  To connect on a human scale.  In doing so, I came to understand my team member was being affected by outside circumstances: Family responsibilities and pressures.  I needed to not be a part of the problem.  Since then, we have reached a place of compassion for one another.

Our profession often makes us put the profession before our own needs and value.  I want us all to get to a place of individual confidence and understanding of our value where we don't have to dismiss others in order to uplift our own light.  The light within will shine just by each of us contributing to the team.  

In the practice of yoga… we end each class with NAMASTE… loosely defined as…”I bow my head to you.  May the light within me honor the light within you.”

My obstacles do not define me.  They are a part of my journey.  I am a part of the present 18%. We are growing in numbers, by trying, failing, admitting and growing.  

About Karen Williams @karenewilliams3

Karen E. Williams is consistently working to educate people about the inner benefits of the architecture community. She is an Adjunct Professor at the University of Oregon where she teaches Revit and Professional Practice. As a means to be professional example, Karen is on the AIA-SWO board and supports STAnDD a local student group. She joined PIVOT Architecture in 2014 as a Project Architect after practicing on the east coast for 9 years.

EQxD Get Real - To read more about challenges and resilience from diverse viewpoints, go here.

In a similar spirit of spontaneity of the Archimom's Everyday Moments of Truth blog series, we are excited to bring you EQxD Get Real: True stories of Challenges and Resilience from diverse perspectives of architects and designers. Each day we will feature the stories of each person's challenges in the profession and what they learned from those experiences to inspire action for equitable practice in architecture.

EQxD Get Real: Control Less, Celebrate More, Shall We?

By Katie E. Ray, Assoc. AIA |  Arlington, VA   

Several encounters come to mind when considering uncomfortable situations I’ve experienced as a female architect, particularly since becoming a mother last August. My first week back after my 8 week maternity leave, I had to tell my boss that I couldn't drive with him to a site meeting because I needed to pump in the car. There was also the conversation I had with my project team, in which I said we can no longer have impromptu ‘stand-at-my-desk-chatting’ meetings at 4:55pm, because if I don’t pick up my baby by 6pm, I have to pay my provider extra. I’ve also learned a lot these first 6 months about the ‘work-life-balance’ of being a mom architect. These lessons included discovering that my baby hates when I check work email while I nurse him in the evening (read: I no longer check work email after 8pm), and that studying for the ARE while attempting to sleep-train an infant is no small feat (read: impossible.) However, the biggest hurdle I've experienced is something that has been occurring long before I ever became a mom, and it has to do with my female colleagues.

I’ll use this seemingly insignificant story to illustrate: I recently discovered a new tool available in Revit 2015 which would greatly benefit the work-flow our team utilizes for Lighting Schedules. We have one Hospitality client (whom we have done multiple renovations for and have many more projects on the horizon) that requests for us to show a photo or cut sheet image for all decorative lighting fixtures specified on the sheet next to the RCP. In the past, to achieve this we've created an Excel document then placed it on the sheet as a raster image.  Being able to place an image into the cell of the Revit Schedule would eliminate this tediousness step (and let’s be honest, the process is a huge vulnerability for mis-coordination.) I saw this new schedule as a game changer for our team. Anything that first reduces confusion and opportunity for mistakes and, second, saves time will achieve two of my major work/life goals: better projects and more time to spend with my family.

With great elation, I sent the new process on to the team, copying the “Revit Captains.” I’m a Project Manager, and our team works very closely with our Interior Design team. The folks familiar with Revit, and familiar with the frustrating workflow we go through for schedules, were immediately on board. But a certain member of the team, a fellow woman colleague who heads Interior Design, proceeded to claim that this must be vetted and agreed upon “by all” as acceptable.

She sent a flurry of emails, voice-mails to my personal cell phone that evening, followed by conversations the next morning, all because I stated I would begin employing a new tool. It was a mind-boggling, knee-jerk reaction. I racked my brain. Why the opposition? I've come to realize it was based on nothing more than feeling a loss of control. The way I handled her tailspin was to agree that, yes, all should be on board. But I also affirmed that I am the PM and in the end reserve the right to execute the drawings as I see fit. I never want to fuel the fire, however I think it’s critical to reiterate that I am competent and capable to make these decisions for my team.

This story, which likely sounds like plain and simple “office drama” at its worst, is meant to illustrate that women design professionals have got to lift each other up a bit more. Can’t we celebrate new ideas without immediately seeing them as an attack on our own ability to manage? I can’t imagine the hurdles that this particular woman has had to overcome, being in the position that she holds.  Quite often she is the only woman in a room full of men. But, at times, the politics of asserting your opinion can actually be damaging to the morale of others. With this story, I worry that this particular woman has confused the advice of ‘find your voice’ to mean, ‘be louder,’ but I think we have a duty to each other to bolster and celebrate ideas and accomplishments when they arise.  Some may think this is an issue of clashing personalities, but as I said in the beginning, this is not the first office I've experienced a challenging situation with fellow female colleagues. I think the delicate balance of asserting yourself versus coming off as a roadblock to your colleagues is a balance worth finding, because the only way to advance ourselves is by supporting each other when steps forward are taken.

About Katie Ray @bigklittleatie

Katie E. Ray, Assoc. AIA currently lives in Arlington, VA and is a PM for a firm just outside of Washington DC. Her projects currently range from restaurants, bars, spas, and country clubs. She is a mother and yogi; on the weekend she loves spending time building lighting and furniture from salvaged materials.

 

 

EQxD Get Real - To read more about challenges and resilience from diverse viewpoints, go here.

In a similar spirit of spontaneity of the Archimom's Everyday Moments of Truth blog series, we are excited to bring you EQxD Get Real: True stories of Challenges and Resilience from diverse perspectives of architects and designers. Each day we will feature the stories of each person's challenges in the profession and what they learned from those experiences to inspire action for equitable practice in architecture. 

 

In Equitable PracticearchitalksINSPIRE%Tags, EQxDGetReal

EQxD Get Real: Search until you find your Yes!

by LaShae Ferguson

What happens when you graduate and you think you'll be designing buildings but you're not? What happens when you see all the cool kids doing amazing things on all the new technologies and you feel like a dinosaur? When you get the rare privilege of helping out on an amazing presentation but for the most part you do a lot of shop drawing reviews? Or being told you might not be ready to be on a team? The main challenge I faced was wanting to learn more, but being told that I should be happy where I am. Well, I wasn’t. I decided to work for small firms, mid-sized and large firms, and I was able to expand my network, find mentors and work on amazing projects. But this didn’t happen overnight - it took over 15 years. (Enjoy the journey right?) The first few years I was enrolled in college, taking classes at night and weekends and working during the day.

It was insane and a process of saving money, learning new skills, searching for my tribe and looking under every nook and cranny for opportunities that provided the space for growth. I sought out the person who helped me to get a scholarship and took her to lunch, sent congratulatory notes to firms whose work I admired and read the employment section of the newspaper every week. The opportunity for growth was a huge driving force but what exactly did I want to do?

For starters, I wanted to see how drawings translated in the field, meet with clients, learn how to conduct sales calls, and see a project from start to finish. I searched until I found a company that allowed me to do just that. And when a project came through the door that I wanted in on, I made it known, 'hey that looks like an awesome project, I want in on it!’ But it wasn’t a cake walk at all. Real talk: I had colleagues rail on me and toss drawings at me. But every single time I stood up for myself, unapologetically. When I felt that some personalities were too extreme, I actively searched out those who were more action oriented versus ego oriented. Take it how you will.

I chose to advance myself further by being an owner, because of my desire to be creative, make a living and have a life. It was scary, like jumping off a cliff without a parachute, but I saw no other way. I knew I wanted to be married and have children and from what I saw, unless you knew the right people and all the right things, returning to work after maternity leave might be questionable. So I decided that instead of working for firms,  I would partner with them. I cold called local small companies, kept in touch with people I worked with and partnered with other designers and contractors. I learned as much as I could in the field and a lot about how to deal with personalities, problem solving and business. I read a lot of amazing biographies and business books that extend beyond my profession.

And I understand, entrepreneurship is not for everyone, it can be scary, but here are a few general takeaways:

  1. Ask yourself, what is it I’m trying to do? Small projects, big projects? Am I good with presentations, production, details, technology, people?

  2. Do I see myself as a principal, vice president, owner?

  3. What are my strong points and areas thatwhere I need work on?

  4. Seek out those whose opinions you value and who will be 100% real with you.

  5. Reach out to someone that you admire and ask them out for coffee, make the connection and keep in touch.

  6. Build your network on social platforms like Twitter and LinkedIn and write sincere recommendations for those you know.  

  7. Go to local networking events.

  8. Ask lots of questions.

  9. Save your money.

  10. Become passionate about a cause and when and if you are able - volunteer.

  11. Become a board member.

  12. Build your tribe.

  13. Be curious, vocal and persistent.

  14. Understand that your path may be different from others, advancement (nor life) is not linear.

If you've gotten this far, to finish school, to work for a firm, you put in 80% right there....so if someone tells you no, you can't, you're not ready, you pick yourself up and search until you find your yes.

About LaShae Ferguson @lashae_f

LaShae A. Ferguson, Assoc. AIA, Owner of L.A. Design Collective, LLC, An Architectural Design & Drawing Co., and graduate of the University of the District of Columbia. LaShae has co-managed design-construction projects worth over $8 million total. When not working, she enjoys spending time with her family, cooking and traveling.

 

 

 

EQxD Get Real - To read more about challenges and resilience from diverse viewpoints, go here.

In a similar spirit of spontaneity of the Archimom's Everyday Moments of Truth blog series, we are excited to bring you EQxD Get Real: True stories of Challenges and Resilience from diverse perspectives of architects and designers. Each day we will feature the stories of each person's challenges in the profession and what they learned from those experiences to inspire action for equitable practice in architecture. 

 

In Equitable PracticearchitalksINSPIRE%TagsEQxDGetReal

EQxD Get Real: Found - The Missing 32%

by Melissa Daniel

I have a theory that the missing 32% is not really missing. I believe the 32% is actually recorded higher because licensed architects who identify themselves as women choose not to volunteer in architectural surveys, join AIA or be part of any architecture group unless such activities are driven by their employer. The following are the top 5 reasons licensed women architects do not participate in any women architecture related activity:

1. I have no Time/Money.

This seems like a legitimate reason. AIA membership is expensive, and we all understand that family does come first. To participate in the architecture conversation, however, it is not necessary to either join an architecture organization nor spend time traveling to a meeting. Social media is a great way to engage the architecture community. Please note that the key word here is ‘engage’.  Simply creating a twitter account with no profile picture does not count. Get involve in the conversation. Your opinion matters.

 

2. Underrepresented.

This is not only frustrating but very discouraging. According to the web, Zahid Hadid is the only woman of color who practices architecture. For the licensed women who are on panels discussing women’s issues, neither have my mocha skin tone nor are in my generation. Due to this lack of representation, there’s a broad spectrum of women’s issues that are never discussed including single motherhood and sexual orientation discrimination. Topics like these cannot be discussed if we are not in the room. Let the architecture community know we exist by joining groups like LinkedIn and participate in the conversation. (Make sure you add a profile photo to your LinkedIn account. It is part of personal branding and it establishes trust.)

3. WIA (Women in Architecture)/ WID (Women in Development) is like a Sorority.

Being the newbie in any group is difficult. However, with close knit groups of women, there’s a stereotype of drama. Conversations of male‐bashing or cattiness really do not exist in WIA/WID groups. If they do in any local group, it’s time to get involved and change things. What we as women fail to realize is that the men have their own exclusive groups. It’s the usually the project architect/managers/associates that go to the bar after work while the women go home and tend to their families. It’s usually those men who bond at lunch while you eat at the workstation. They form fraternities and establish strong networks.  Ladies, we do not need to sit in our own islands. Something as simple as inviting the other female co‐worker(s) to lunch can mean all the difference. Remember, this is business.

4. Superwoman.  

The ‘superwoman’ architect has done it all. They conquered the work‐life balance and wonder why we haven’t done the same. The reality is however, they have struggled. Like their male counterparts, the ‘superwoman’ architect tends to have enormous egos and almost never show signs of weakness in public. Events like the EQxD#Hackathon taking place at the AIA National Convention in Atlanta will reveal the ‘superwoman’ architect’s struggles and tools to succeed.

5. "Sucky" Advice.

‘Be the best you can be’, ‘Be confident’, and ‘Work hard’ sounds more like a pep talk than advice. When there’s a serious question about ‘how do you handle a co‐worker when...’ is asked, finding women architects to give ‘real advice’ is difficult because there’s a perception that only superwoman architects exist out there. The best way to find the answers to the questions is to seek out women with similar situations and ask them. The problem is that these women don’t participate. A vicious cycle of the non‐participants seeking advice from other non‐participants. The only other way to find like‐minded women, join WIA/WID groups in your local area, find them on LinkedIn, Facebook, or Twitter. If you’re not having luck there, start your own group (physical or visual). ‘Eat the Whale’ a wise woman once told me.

 

About Melissa Daniel  @MelissaRDaniel 

Photo credit: D. Phinney

Photo credit: D. Phinney

Former AIA Diversity and Inclusion Council member, Melissa Daniel is passionate about changing the culture of the architecture profession. She spent the past three years as chair of the Women in Architecture Series serving AIA|DC, DCNOMA and AIA|NOVA WIA Committee. She was selected in 2012 for the Emerging Architect Award by AIA|DC, 2013 Young Architect of the year by DCCEAS and 2014 Leading Women under 40 by Maryland’s The Daily Record.

 

EQxD Get Real - To read more about challenges and resilience from diverse viewpoints, go here.

In a similar spirit of spontaneity of the Archimom's Everyday Moments of Truth blog series, we are excited to bring you EQxD Get Real: True stories of Challenges and Resilience from diverse perspectives of architects and designers. Each day we will feature the stories of each person's challenges in the profession and what they learned from those experiences to inspire action for equitable practice in architecture. 

 

EQxD Get Real: True Stories of Challenge & Resilience

by Rosa Sheng, AIA

Last month, Architect Magazine featured an article referencing the 2014 Equity in Architecture survey as a catalyst for the conversation; “Closing the Gender Gap: Female architects identify ways that women can push through the traditional career choke points and advance through the ranks in a male-dominated field.”  by Elizabeth Dickinson. Three architects were interviewed for their perspectives on the topic; Julia Murphy, AIA an Associate of SOM in New York City, Kelley Howell, AIA a newly named Partner of Pivot Architecture in Eugene, Oregon  and Janet Tam, AIA founding Principal of Noll and Tam in San Francisco.

While the first comment to the article sparked a slurry of conversation, it highlighted that implicit bias is still deeply rooted in Architecture. The writer's comment highlights what still remains in professional practice; a pervasive "take it or leave it" attitude towards the "tradition" to endure long hours and low pay while disregarding the fact that those tropes are driving talent away from Architectural practice.

Discussion comments to Architect Magazine article by Elizabeth Dickinson

Concurrently, there was a twitter chat suggesting that we continue the conversation started by the Architect Magazine article with a broader spectrum of viewpoints within the profession. Let's get to the heart of the challenges in Architecture from the members of the profession that are rarely heard. In a similar spirit of spontaneity to the idea of the Archimom's Everyday Moments of Truth blog series, we are excited to bring you EQxD Get Real: True stories of Challenges and Resilience from diverse perspectives of architects and designers. Each day we will feature the stories of each person's challenges in the profession and what they learned from those experiences to inspire action for equitable practice in architecture.  Follow #EQxDGetReal on Twitter this week to share all the stories.

 

Found: The Missing 32%

by Melissa Daniel 

Former AIA Diversity and Inclusion Council member, Melissa Daniel is passionate about changing the culture of the architecture profession. She spent the past three years as chair of the Women in Architecture Series serving AIA|DC, DCNOMA and AIA|NOVA WIA Committee. She was selected in 2012 for the Emerging Architect Award by AIA|DC, 2013 Young Architect of the year by DCCEAS and 2014 Leading Women under 40 by Maryland’s The Daily Record. 

Search until you find your Yes!

by LaShae A. Ferguson, Assoc. AIA

LaShae is the owner of L.A. Design Collective, LLC, An Architectural Design & Drawing Co., and graduate of the University of the District of Columbia. LaShae has co-managed design-construction projects worth over $8 million total. When not working, she enjoys spending time with her family, cooking and traveling.

Control less, Celebrate more, shall we? 

by Katie E. Ray

Katie is an emerging professional who currently lives in Arlington, VA and is an APM for a firm just outside of Washington DC. Her projects currently range from restaurants, bars, spas, and country clubs. She is a mother and yogi; on the weekend she loves spending time building lighting and furniture from salvaged materials.

Is the world ready for real talk?

by Karen E. Williams AIA, LEED AP BD+C, NCARB 

Karen E. Williams is consistently working to educate people about the inner benefits of the architecture community. She is an Adjunct Professor at the University of Oregon where she teaches Revit and Professional Practice. As a means to be professional example, Karen is on the AIA-SWO board and supports STAnDD a local student group. She joined PIVOT Architecture in 2014 as a Project Architect after practicing on the east coast for 9 years.

The Long and Winding Road

by Tara Imani, AIA 

Tara Imani Designs, LLC is a premier full-service architecture and interiors solo practice, founded and led by Tara Imani, AIA. Ms. Imani is a licensed Architect in the State of Texas and a graduate of The Ohio State University with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Architecture. Ms. Imani is also an active voice on social media and advocate for Equity in Architecture.