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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?

EQxD Get Real: Architecture - Open to ALL

By Jared W. Smith, AIA, NOMA  

I was on a trip to China, studying abroad with my college classmates. Being a 6'-4" African American in China, I expected to stand out. One day while in Shanghai, I ventured out on my own close to the university dorms. There was an indoor market with vendors selling various small items. I walked the floor glancing at the goods. At one vendor's station, I found something of interest. They seemed very hesitant as I approached. Having been in the country for a couple weeks I was aware that I'd attract some attention but this was like no other. As I continued to peruse, I could feel their discomfort growing. It escalated to a point where they did not want me to remain at their table to purchase anything. I was shocked to be "shooed" away. A bit of calm rather than anger came over me. It was best that I hadn't made a scene in a foreign country. Later on it hit me what had occurred. 

Yes, I stand out.

Jared W. Smith, AIA, NOMA (Photo by Pak Ki So)

Jared W. Smith, AIA, NOMA (Photo by Pak Ki So)

Architecture has historically been a white male dominated profession. According to the Directory of African American Architects, African Americans make up less than 2% of registered architects. Does that put me at a disadvantage? Could others act bias towards me? Possibly. That does not mean I should agree to it or remain without changes for better equality. This is not to discredit anyone of any other nationality that has put in hard work and dedication to become successful in the profession. However with similar education, abilities and a creative prowess for quality design, we all deserve to be at that table. Why is this not the norm?

How can we achieve that norm? Or could it be an advantage? Coming from a background of two working class parents whose own parents were low income, I had little to be considered privileged. My family was blessed to never be without the necessities. My parents both sacrificed to attain their Masters’ degrees while raising my brother and me. Privilege doesn't start at adulthood but from the influence enumerated at birth through adolescence to adulthood. What is allotted and taught to our children as they develop is what they will become and feel as adults. This article by Toby Morris illustrates this principle of the effects of our upbringing. 

Where have things gone astray? For one, African Americans are not shown in a good light in our society. This affects how we are perceived no matter what profession. The negative display exasperates a bias nature. Bias and privilege affect Architecture as a profession today by creating a sense of entitlement. African Americans may think "I am not good enough," or "I cannot attain that," or "I'm not qualified to enter that competition," Negative thoughts bring upon negative actions. If you believe you can't, then you are halfway toward failure.   

Possible solutions - A showcase of senior and highly experienced African American architects in the profession. Not only is it a benefit but also a motivation to aspiring architects. A coinciding article entitled "Why the Lack of Black Students" touches on this need. These future architects get a confidence boost seeing those they can relate to in positions they hope to hold one day. In a recent article by, building individual confidence plays a major role in a successful business and improved perception by others.

I am grateful to have had a rather diverse schooling environment as well as a diverse workplace. New York City is known for being America's Melting Pot full of determined individuals striving for their dreams no matter the obstacles. As a whole, more change is necessary.

Years ago while surveying at a housing authority complex I came across a 30-something African American man confined to a wheelchair. He observed me as I used my binoculars and camera. I was documenting facade deterioration. He proceeded to ask, "Hey where do you work and are they hiring?" I proceeded to tell him I worked for an architecture & engineering firm. He then said "That looks easy. I can do that." Continuing the conversation, I went on to explain briefly the profession and what I was doing. He said "So.. you're an architect" and I replied yes, as soon as I pass all my exams. He asked "Are there many of us?" By the skepticism in his voice and bewildered look, I know he figured there were not many. I said No. He ended the conversation in a way to respectfully leave me to my surveying. His last comment as he wheeled away was "oh.. I did not know."  

Architects are known by the general public as intellectuals who design buildings, homes and interiors. However, why is it without any knowledge of the profession's statistics is it known to be limiting to people of color? Is this due to societal influence? We all deserve to be at the table to showcase our talents.  

This post is contributed by Jared W. Smith from his new website.

Post Links: 
Toby Morris Illustration

Why the Lack of Black Students Article

Entrepreneur Article "6 Actions You Can Take Every Day to Build Your Self-Confidence"

Travel Channel Article "American's Melting Pot"

The Directory of African American Architects

EQxD Get Real Series Posts

If you liked reading this feature, you may want to explore these other posts.

1. EQxD Get Real Series: Bias & Privilege by Rosa Sheng, AIA

2. EQxD Get Real: Being the Only One in the Room, by Mark Gardner, AIA

3. EQxD Get Real: Be Willing to Listen | Recognize our Privilege and Bias, by Katherine Williams, AIA

4. EQxD Get Real: The Weight by Marilyn Moedinger, AIA

EQxD Get Real: The Weight

by Marilyn Moedinger, AIA, LEED AP

There is a weight on my shoulders. It’s heavy and slows me down, and even though I didn’t put it there, I get blamed for it. “Drop that chip on your shoulder, why don’t you?” they say. I’d love to.

I’ve learned a lot about the weight in the 10 years I’ve been working in architecture, academia, and construction. I’ve learned that the first thing that some people do when they see me is add to the weight. Maybe it’s a brick that says “girl” or “chick” or “little lady” on it. Or maybe one that says “bitch,” or “bubblehead,” or “boobs,” or maybe it says “weak,” or “wayward,” or “whiner,” or perhaps “inconsequential,” or “incompetent,” or “invisible.” When I see them add the brick, I know how to react now. I’ve had a lot of practice. “Ah yes,” I think to myself, “I’ve seen this before. Since this person will only see me in a physical way, I have to change what I wear, make sure there’s nothing that can be construed as remotely sexy, but still feminine, but still ready to tromp through a construction site, yet still cool and professional. No worries, I have a whole section of my wardrobe labeled ‘Professional Clothing That’s Not Too Clingy But Also Isn’t A Gunny Sack.’” And as a result of our stiflingly patriarchal culture, it’s my responsibility to think of all these things and react to them to effortlessly bear the expectations of others, to breezily mold myself into a "culturally accepted female" - all while having a likable disposition, perfect hair, and a great sense of humor.
And oh yeah, almost forgot – to design and bring multimillion dollar, multi-year jobs in on time and under budget.

Marilyn Moedinger, Founding Principal of Runcible Studios (Photo by Mikkel Stromstad and courtesy of BAC)

Marilyn Moedinger, Founding Principal of Runcible Studios (Photo by Mikkel Stromstad and courtesy of BAC)

It’s hard not to focus on the weight, on the bricks others add to my shoulders. The injustice is searing, frustrating, and insulting. My 8 year old self  strode weightless and confident through the fields of her family farm. She climbed trees, got muddy, tried to install plumbing at her playhouse -  and dreamed up cities and couldn’t wait to build them. She would be both in awe of my accomplishments, and horrified at their price. Over the years, I’ve started to believe those things – maybe I am less capable, maybe I am better suited to a supporting role, maybe my ideas aren’t worth sharing. When does that happen? When do we become so conscious of how others perceive us that we’re paralyzed, rendered stock still by the weight of societal expectations and norms?

And yet. As a white, heterosexual, able-bodied person, I can move easily within many culturally accepted norms. How have I added to the burdens of others over the years by making assumptions, perpetuating stereotypes, being an insensitive, unobservant bull in the china shop? I know of many, and it’s uncomfortable and horrifying.

Privilege doesn’t mean you’re not carrying a weight too – we all have burdens we heft – it means being blissfully unaware of the effect you have on others’ weights. It’s being blind to what you’re stacking on their shoulders, to what you’re requiring them to bear, just so that your world remains intact and unchanged, so that you maintain your [unearned] power and position in society. Privilege is insidious - quite possibly you wield it unconsciously and without outward malice. In architecture, for example, it’s the long hours and paltry pay that are somehow still a badge of honor and a sign of a “cool” design firm that make it especially hard for women to have a family and a career in architecture. It’s the thousand slights women face in the design and construction industry, like being asked to serve coffee at the meeting, being interrupted or being paid less than men.

I think the only way to relieve this situation is to LISTEN – not to the same old voices, but to the ones that have been traditionally silenced, discouraged, or not welcomed, and then to BELIEVE
— Marilyn Moedinger, AIA, LEED AP

As our industry becomes more aware of the need for better work/life balance, we make progress, and yet other layers of privilege begin to reveal themselves. The privilege of people with partners and kids who push their work onto others, saying, “You can work late, you don’t have a family.” The privilege of people with fewer family responsibilities who have time and space to study for their exams, saying, “All you have to do is study; if you really wanted it, you’d find the time.” The privilege of people with white skin who go to meetings and jobsites without concern that they’re being judged by their ethnicity saying, “What do you mean, racism? I don’t see it, it doesn’t happen around me.” The privilege of students who can afford an architectural education saying, “Anyone can be an architect!”

I think the only way to relieve this situation is to LISTEN – not to the same old voices, but to the ones that have been traditionally silenced, discouraged, or not welcomed, and then to BELIEVE – not to deny others’ experiences, but to say, “Yes, I hear you, that sounds really tough. Tell me more.” Frankly, I’m sick and tired of hearing the same old voices in this profession. I’m sick and tired of being told I’m imagining things, or that I shouldn’t be so passionate about injustices I see because people might get upset when they’re pointed out. Guess what, everyone – I’m good and done privileging the industry’s established sexism at the expense of my professional growth, my health, my sovereignty, or my passion – or that of my amazing students, colleagues, and friends.

I’m asking you to help me learn when I’m adding bricks to your load – tell me to stop. And I’m not taking any more bricks from anyone – I’m throwing them down, rising up, and making some awesome buildings.

EQxD Get Real Series Posts

If you liked reading this feature, you may want to explore these other posts.

1. EQxD Get Real Series: Bias & Privilege by Rosa Sheng, AIA

2. EQxD Get Real: Being the Only One in the Room, by Mark Gardner, AIA

3. EQxD Get Real: Be Willing to Listen | Recognize our Privilege and Bias, by Katherine Williams, AIA

4. EQxD Get Real: The Weight by Marilyn Moedinger, AIA

EQxD Get Real: Be Willing to Listen | Recognizing our Privilege & Bias

by Katherine Williams, AIA, NOMA

To most people privilege is unseen advantage. If you don’t recognize that you may be privileged, I encourage you to view the privilege walk demonstration in the video “What is Privilege?”,.  The 400 million+ living in the US are privileged just by the rights we have here that are not part of the DNA of other nations. We are taught, from an early age, that we have the right for our voice to be heard and to pursue paths of our choosing. However, our country does not fully acknowledge that at times our privilege will open doors and at other times bias will keep doors closed.

Katherine Williams at construction site

Katherine Williams at construction site

For me, privilege or luck or maybe just God’s favor, has been on my side since I first was introduced to architecture. The first day I began to think of architecture as a career option was at a Girl Scout career fair in elementary school. I was privileged to be in a place with active Girl Scout leaders who had networks that included a woman architect. However, this was only a first step. Next, I was privileged to have a mother who sought out resources when she recognized her children were interested in something. Because of that, I was in an Explorer program for architecture and attended a two week Girl Scout camp on architecture and construction. In those programs, I was building small projects, getting introduced to CAD, and visiting firms and college campuses. As adults we know that we should do these things to find out more about our potential careers, but do we ever consider how many kids do not have access to these avenues to get a taste of the architecture path?

Katherine's daughter celebrates competition at the 2012 San Francisco NAWIC/Girl Scout Building Block day

Katherine's daughter celebrates competition at the 2012 San Francisco NAWIC/Girl Scout Building Block day

To juxtapose all of the privileges I was blessed with, as a black woman in a predominantly white, male profession, I think about bias on almost a daily basis. Everyday prejudices and bias about who can be an architect have limited the exposure at early ages to the profession, have made it difficult for people to succeed in our education system, and has hindered progression in firms. I think about it when I walk into a professional gathering, whether AIA, USGBC or other, and see no other person of color. I wonder who does not get invited when there are events to build their network or earn continuing education credits. I think about it when I walk on job sites and see no women workers on a project team. I wonder how many people are trying to get into a union but did not because they did not have the right connections. I wonder which small, minority or woman, contractor did not get the project because they were left off a bid list. I think about bias whenever I tell someone that I am only the 251st black woman licensed in the US. I wonder who is trying to get their boss to give them experience to finish their IDP, or help pay for exam, or time off to study. Without time and funds to prepare and take exams, we will not build a pipeline of future architects.  African-American, women architects number only 337 out of the, approximately, one hundred thousand licensed architects. We are currently less than half of one percent.

I think about bias whenever I tell someone that I am only the 251st black woman licensed in the US... African-American, women architects number only 337 out of the, approximately, one hundred thousand licensed architects. We are currently less than half of one percent.
— Katherine Williams, AIA, NOMA
Students chatting with architect at the 2012 San Francisco NOMA student firm crawl. 

Students chatting with architect at the 2012 San Francisco NOMA student firm crawl. 

For a profession that affects almost every person in the country, the lack of diverse voices at the table remains a problem that leads to perspectives being left out of decisions that get made.

If we held up a mirror to the architecture profession it would expose how we are the privileged, providing services to other privileged. It is only once we step out of our boxes to see the world from a different view that we can recognize our own privilege and bias enough to start dismantling the structures that hold them in place.

Because a lot my work has centered on community improvement and development in underserved neighborhoods, many of the people who would be considered my clients lacked privilege. For example, they may not have finished college, have lived with poverty level wages, or were elderly or disabled. An alternative to the privilege walk mentioned above, is the privilege circle. By moving to or away from the center of a circle, based on the questions, one can see who has more privilege, which usually equates to more influence in that particular community or group. “What would be different if people in communities most impacted by inequality were seen as the center of, or as experts on, their communities’ needs and situations?” The notion of community input gets misunderstood by architects as we look for community members to buy into our plans instead of giving them the tools to create their own.

In order to truly create the best solutions, we must be willing to listen, walk around, and allow people who have been living in the communities to have the privilege of being the leading voice. Likewise, in order to create the best design practices, we must invite and listen to those who have not traditionally been at the table.

1. BuzzFeedYellow. (2015 July 4) “What is Priviledge?”
2. University of Michigan, Edward Ginsberg Student Life Center. Privilege Walk Activity.
Grant, Brad and Dennis Mann. The Directory of African-American Architects.
4. Brown, Adrienne Maree. (2013 August 17) Take the Privilege Walk.

EQxD Get Real Series Posts

If you liked reading this feature, you may want to explore these other posts.

1. EQxD Get Real Series: Bias & Privilege by Rosa Sheng, AIA

2. EQxD Get Real: Being the Only One in the Room, by Mark Gardner, AIA

3. EQxD Get Real: Be Willing to Listen | Recognize our Privilege and Bias, by Katherine Williams, AIA

4. EQxD Get Real: The Weight by Marilyn Moedinger, AIA



EQxD Get Real: Being the Only One in the Room

by Mark Gardner, AIA, LEED AP

My path to architecture began with an almost naïve understanding of what I might face in becoming an architect.

Initially, I was lured by the art, science, history and technical nature of the field, the ability to affect the environment and change people’s lives. I  had an opportunity to practice a profession with a history.

I had never met a Black architect until I got to Georgia Tech. 

Mark Gardner Principal at Jaklitsch / Gardner Architects

Mark Gardner Principal at Jaklitsch / Gardner Architects

 Even at that time, I didn’t have the experience to ask the hard questions: Is the practice of architecture difficult? Is it made more difficult by the complication of color? At what point will the bias of others get shelved? Could I make use of this position to understand what it means to be a good architect?

I only needed to put my talents forward… right?
The architecture profession does not represent the cross section of this country, much like congress. Congress is
87 percent white; 85 percent in the House and 96 percent in the Senate. Based on an article in The Atlantic, “The 33 Whitest Jobs in America” , The Architecture Profession is roughly 91.3 percent white. Black architects make up less than 2% of the total number of registered architects nationwide. 

How does this clear lack of diversity affect our design? What does it mean? I went to Georgia Tech and I was 1 of 4 African-American students in a class of 120 students. Some professors were my champions and mentors and others, not so much. Occasionally unsure of my footing, I would make decisions slowly, deliberately and waited for opportunities. 

Early in my career, as friends found jobs and started their path toward licensure, grad school or whatever was coming next, I was turned away from many majority architecture firms. I would interview with the same firms and hear kind words, but little more. Still I kept faith. If I worked hard, that hard work would be rewarded. At one interview after a few years of working and managing, I had a firm Principal tell me that I could fill the role of an intern who was leaving for school. I reminded her of my experience level and was met by a blank stare. It is a difficult moment to reconstruct. Was I overly sensitive? Had she just overlooked my portfolio? Did she make up her mind in her busy schedule to believe what she wanted to believe? Whether we recognize it or not, there is an internal never-ending battle being waged by what we think we know against the unknown. Our eyes can't lie and yet our bias only gives undue weight to doubt. Questioning this bias is a good and necessary thing. I eventually found my opportunity from two African-American architects who could understand my struggles because it was their struggle. William Stanley and Ivenue Love-Stanley taught me how to find a space to design and make use of my experience. I sat in the theater at the 2014 AIA Convention to hear Ivenue share the lessons from our story. She practiced what she preached as evidenced in her 2014 Whitney Young Award Acceptance Speech:

“How many of you today realize that it is absolutely important that young people be afforded internships, as well as, permanent positions in your firms…” she said. “I, for one, will continue to advocate for change. I want to simply ask you to search your souls and honestly ask the question, ‘Is this profession what you want it to be?’ There is a scarcity of minorities and women in key leadership positions at the major architecture firms in the country. It is astounding. I would suggest that we start by aggressively increasing enrollment of minorities at major schools of architecture. Then aggressively work to increase the representation of minorities and female faculty members…these improvements are long overdue. We stand to lose an entire generation if we do not act fast.”  - Ivenue Love-Stanley, FAIA

I agree. Why do we as a profession not give more opportunity to younger architects — in particular, women and those of color? They bring incredible value to the profession, something unique, a new story to tell- the future story. The sea of change Ivenue was asking for is not one that can be made alone but requires the majority to align with what is being asked by the minority. I have been fortunate to be in situations where I have the opportunity to prove my talents and found the confidence to trust in my talents. That confidence is built upon the support and respect of architects who trained me.

The time spent in Atlanta gave me the confidence to return to school to pursue a graduate degree in architecture. Eventually a junior architect position brought me to New York and I spent several years working in various firms. I was always trying to get better, learn as much as possible and value the power of observation. From a young age, as an African-American, you’re told you have to work harder because in some quarters little is expected of you. 

As a principal of a firm, I now sit in a position of privilege, but it is also a position of perspective. I remember being a student. I remind myself what it is like to sit across the table in that interview. I remember the times when I could have used a mentor. I am a mentor. When asked “How did you do it?” or “Tell me the steps to get where I want to go.”  The first thing I say, is that we are free to write our own stories and there is not a guide book. I am reminded of a Charlie Rose interview with Steve Martin, that resonates with me. He says, “I always say, be so good they can’t ignore undeniable.”

I have found the confidence now to be the only one in the room. I no longer feel the burden to assimilate, but to celebrate that my experiences also want to be shared. We can all be agents of change. The disparities and bias that exist in our society demand it.

"Why the lack of Black Students?" Architecture Record Nov. 2012
The 33 Whitest Jobs in America, The Atlantic Nov. 6, 2013
Charlie Rose Interview Clip with Steve Martin

EQxD Get Real Series Posts

If you liked reading this feature, you may want to explore these other posts.

1. EQxD Get Real Series: Bias & Privilege by Rosa Sheng, AIA

2. EQxD Get Real: Being the Only One in the Room, by Mark Gardner, AIA

3. EQxD Get Real: Be Willing to Listen | Recognize our Privilege and Bias, by Katherine Williams, AIA




EQxD Get Real Series: Bias & Privilege

by Rosa Sheng, AIA

Architecture's Diversity Problem

It doesn't take too much to notice architecture's diversity problem. Statistics, while vague and hard to come by, estimate 15-18 percent of licensed architects are women and 13 percent of licensed AIA Architect members are minority populations including 5 percent Asian Americans, 4 percent Hispanics or Latino and less than 2.0 percent African Americans. While enrollment in architecture schools and NCARB candidates may be on the uptick, people of color and women still drop out of the field at a very high rate. The 2014 Equity in Architecture Survey sought to understand the key factors of job satisfaction that were influenced by likelihood of becoming a Principal, a transparent path to promotion, and day to day work that is meaningful to long term goals. Additionally, there is a lack of mentors, a dearth of financial support, and a bureaucratic system resistant to change. But a more deeply rooted factor preventing people of color and women from advancing is an outright ignorance towards systemic bias and prejudice that benefits the privileged in the workplace.

Not Your Token Architect

Last month, during the July Twitter #ArchitectChats about emerging professionals, a heated conversation somehow went south; "touching the third-rail south" to be exact. A biased statement was made, there were clearly those that were offended by the statement (and likely had every right to be). Focusing on the person who made the statement was less important than honing in on the fact that this type of thinking exists. 

I don’t want an inexperienced non-caucasion m/f in a major decision position just for the token effect.
— (Statement made during Twitter #ArchitectChats)

We cannot make progress in terms of equity, diversity and inclusion when there is a base lack of understanding of the institutional racism, implicit bias and the largely unfounded fear and ignorance of the "other" that exists. (The "other": broadly be defined as those who are systemically without power and privilege to get access to the same opportunities as the majority). We cannot make progress when there is a fear of discussing the bias and prejudice that exists, no matter how "uncomfortable" the subject matter may be at times.

Tokenism is flawed in the statement above as there is an assumption that non-whites are less experienced and therefore undeserving of advancement to a position of power. Tokenism is defined as the practice of using a member of a minority group in order to prove how "progressive" and "forward-thinking" an organization may be, without truly solving the root of the problem: implicit bias and systemic racism. While the act of tokenism is used by those in power to subvert the issue, those who advance are viewed as "tokens". The backlash towards them implies that these individuals are not qualified or deserving of their position and may even remain loyal to those in power who promoted them.

The Challenge

When the "token" statement was made, I wasn't offended, but rather perplexed. I tried to explain to the person making the statement why it would be offending to others. I saw an opportunity to have a broader discussion about bias & privilege in our EQxD Get Real blog series that would allow for a more authentic understanding of the real challenges that those striving for equity must face everyday. I asked our twitter followers: Who would be brave to contribute? We had many volunteers who are professionals in architecture at various stages of their career and diverse in their backgrounds. We asked them to reflect on the following questions and we ask that you do the same.

  1. Reflect on your awareness of what these two words mean to you - bias & privilege
  2. How does bias or privilege affect your ability to achieve your career goals (or not?)
  3. How do you think bias and privilege affect Architecture as a profession today? 
  4. What needs to be done about bias and privilege to inspire action/positive change?

Dare to Share

Each of us has bias towards others and each of us has privilege over others. It is when bias & privilege limit opportunities for those who are NOT in a position of power that we end up where we are today. For the next 3 weeks, we will be featuring the candid responses of each volunteer to these provocative questions.  Our goal is to create a safe forum for these difficult conversations in hopes of reaching a broader understanding of the individuals who have contributed and how bias and privilege affects each and every one of us in different ways.

Please follow us on Twitter #EQxDGetReal for each blog related to this challenge. 



More Thought for Food (related articles for deeper reflection and understanding.


EQxD Get Real Series Posts

If you liked reading this feature, you may want to explore these other posts.

1. EQxD Get Real Series: Bias & Privilege by Rosa Sheng, AIA

2. EQxD Get Real: Being the Only One in the Room, by Mark Gardner, AIA

3. EQxD Get Real: Be Willing to Listen | Recognize our Privilege and Bias, by Katherine Williams, AIA

4. EQxD Get Real: The Weight by Marilyn Moedinger, AIA

Recap: EQxD "U" Workshop - Negotiation is your Power Tool

Our 3rd workshop in the EQxD "U" series: Negotiation is your Power Tool was a stimulating conversation about negotiation with our diverse panelists: A contractor, a client, an architect, and an HR director. Some of them confessed to never negotiating for high salaries earlier on in their careers. View our storify recap to enjoy the highlights from the discussion.



Hungry for more Knowledge, Discussion and Action? Join us for the best and last EQxD "U" Workshop #4 on Thursday, October 22nd at 6-8:30pm for "Architecture And...Expanding our influence through multidisciplinary practices". 

Developing a diverse practice that straddles several related fields can be good idea from both a business and creative standpoint. How can a multidisciplinary practice broaden our creative thinking when times are good and help protect against a volatile building market when times are bad? What does the Architecture firm look like 20 years from now and what are potentially the evolution of services that we can provide that reinforces the Value of Design? What kinds of divergent/convergent work make sense for architecture firms to take on that will increase resiliency and relevance into the future?

EQxD “U” Workshop 3 - Negotiation is Your Power Tool - Meet the Panelists!

by Julia Mandell, 

We are excited to bring you the 3rd of 4 EQxD “U” Workshops - Negotiation is Your Power Tool. August 13th, 2015 @AIASF 130 Sutter St, San Francisco 6pm - 8:30pm

At this interactive workshop we will discuss and learn strategies for achieving success in various negotiations from salary discussions to contracts. According the the 2014 Equity in Architecture Survey, negotiation skills are sorely lacking in our profession. The survey found that less than 35% of all respondents, regardless of gender, negotiated their current salaries. Those who had negotiated salary increases experienced similar rates of self-reported success, and successful negotiators of both genders made more money on average than their non-negotiating counterparts. While this is encouraging data, successful negotiation is a well-honed skill that requires a deep understanding of all the potential factors that influence positive outcomes.

The session will feature 4 professionals from architecture, construction, planning, and human resources who excel at negotiation in their various roles. Following a summary of key survey findings on negotiation and salary, we will engage the panelists in a question and answer session before participating in role-playing activities to strengthen our negotiation skills. Start refining your knowledge and developing your skills at our workshop.

8/13 Negotiation Workshop Agenda

Networking & Refreshments 6pm - 6:15pm
Introductions/Welcome 6:15 - 6:25pm
Panel Discussion 6:25 - 7:15pm
Break/Transition 7:15 - 7:20pm
Negotiation Role Play 7:20 - 8:10pm
Conclusions 8:10 - 8:30pm


Laurie Dreyer

Laurie Dreyer
Director of Human Resources, Harris & Associates 

Laurie brings to Harris over 32 years of experience in HR leadership positions for such companies as Ratcliff Architects, Gensler, Psomas and Anshen+Allen/Stantec. Laurie has found her career calling as a human resources specialist and teacher. Her proudest moments are the times she’s able to help, teach or support someone. And she does all of those often at Harris— teaching classes, developing employee learning programs and enhancing recruitment efforts to build the best teams.She has also taught at the AIA, AEBL, Senior Executives Institute of ACEC, and Design Leadership events. Laurie has also been a popular presenter at several negotiation workshops at past years' AIASF The Missing 32% and Equity by Design Symposia.

Julia Laue

Julia Laue AIA, LEED AP
Principal Architect & Manager, Building Design and Construction, San Francisco Public Works, City and County of San Francisco 

As Principal Architect and Manager for Building, Design and Construction Julia’s focus is on excellence in Project Delivery and Design for the City's great civic projects.   She oversees 155+ architects, landscape architects and construction managers and employs many private architecture and engineering firms throughout the City. Having come from the private sector, for the last 2+ years she has been working towards the establishment of a culture of excellence within this office. Prior to her current position at the City of San Francisco she was Project Director and an Associate Partner at NC2 Studio and Vice President and Senior Project Manager at SB Architects.

Marc Pfenninger

Marc Pfenninger, AIA, LEED AP
Principal, San Francisco, STUDIOS Architecture

Marc joined STUDIOS’ San Francisco office in 1999. During his tenure, he has led civic, institutional, and commercial projects for education, high-tech, law, and other client types. With his in-depth knowledge of the construction industry and solid understanding of technical implementation and field administration, Marc is adept at managing and designing technically complex projects. Most recently, Marc was a key project architect for the retrofit and renovation of the California Memorial Stadium at UC Berkeley, which includes 145,000 sf of new training and development facilities, seismic and program upgrades to the existing structure, and a new press box. He has also served as project designer for several high technology office and campus projects, including Exactly Vertical, Excite@Home, Silicon Graphics, and SoftNet.

Alec Banta 
Senior Project Manager, McCarthy Building Companies

Alec has been working with McCarthy for over 11 years, overseeing a number of high profile projects in Silicon Valley and the Sacramento Valley regions. An expert in design-build, Alec recently completed the Capital Improvement Project II for the College of San Mateo and the fast-track Housing and Healthcare Facility in Stockton. A natural communicator, Alec is a skilled consensus builder capable of managing large, complex teams. Alec is currently serving as the senior project manager for the new parking garage at Westfield Valley Fair in San Jose. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Construction Management from California State University, Chico.

Negotiation Flipped Classroom

(Strategies and Resources to read before you attend):


EQxD Workshop 3 - Negotiation is your Power Tool

Based on our survey findings, less than 35% of all respondents negotiated their salaries after receiving an unsatisfactory offer. How can we become more effective negotiators for ourselves, our firms, and for the architectural profession-at-large?

There are many situations and types of negotiation — and ultimately it breaks down to communication styles and the choices we make when we engage in these situations. In this workshop, you will learn HOW to negotiate by understanding the key differences between key negotiation mindsets and then practicing

Join us Thursday, August 13th, 6pm-8:30pm for the most anticipated workshop of the EQxD series. We expect to sell out for this event, so register early. This session will feature a panel of negotiation experts from the AEC community followed by key strategies. Then, you will engage in role play scenarios of real life situations to practice effective outcomes for your next performance review, compensation discussion, contracts with your clients, and essential strategies to stand up to competitive types.

In April, AIA YAF Connection featuring Equity by Design topics including an article on negotiation strategies. A great resource to review prior to the workshop or a reference tool if you can't join us.

#Architalks 10: Give me a Break!

By Rosa Sheng, AIA

#Architalks is back! And No. 10 happens to be themed on the topic of Summer Break (no irony should be lost that I have written this post during my summer break and it was due just a day after the 4th of July holiday weekend) thanks to Bob Borson of Life of an Architect. 

Since childhood, summer breaks have been special and distinct. As the weather heats up for 3 months, time seems to slow down. And yet, the memories from these "breaks" are more vivid now than the blurred rush from rest of the 9 months of years past.  Fireworks, fireflies, family day trips to the Jersey shore with sun, sand, and salty Atlantic Ocean mixed with smells of fried funnel cake, cotton candy and lemonade. As I got older, summer break trips expanded to a few special visits to China to visit my grandparents and see amazing architectural wonders like the Great Wall, Forbidden City, and the Hu-Tong (densely packed neighborhood fabric of the city). And during Architecture school, my last summer break as a student was spent immersed in the city of Taipei, Taiwan for my thesis project: mixing summer fun with historical research for a theoretical building site. 

Now, as an Architect living on the west coast for more than 15 years with seasons that are muddled, I look forward to my “summer breaks” more than ever. I enjoy reliving the nostalgic memories and creating new ones with my family in our annual July vacation to the east coast. It has become an important time to recharge the batteries, reconnect with personal passions, as well as catching up with our relatives and friends. While we still make a point to unplug with a visit to the beach, my vacations would not be complete without some exploration of urban and architectural treasures. The list includes an annual visit to The Metropolitan Museum (aka., The MET), a baseball game at the new stadiums, a leisure stroll on the High Line, a ferry ride to Governor's Island, the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia and The Glass House in Connecticut. 

The importance of getting a break from work or any major project that we are trying to accomplish seems like an obvious no brainer to maintain optimal focus and productivity. A 2008 Families & Work Institute study found that not only do workers with paid vacation time have higher job satisfaction and are less likely to leave their job than those without paid vacation time, but also that the amount of time away matters. Both workers’ satisfaction and likelihood to stay in their job rose significantly when their vacation lasted 13 days or more.

While most established Architecture firms may offer a minimum number of paid vacation days and sick days (usually 10 of each) to salaried full-time employees, the reality is that the majority of staff never take the full time allotted to them given the demands of project schedules and pressures of the “long hours” work culture originating from Architectural School design studio. Since we conducted the Equity in Architecture Survey in 2014, the discussion of work/life flexibility and more specifically the topic of employer support for taking an extended break is something that the Architecture profession needs to discuss and improve upon as a strong link to talent retention. 

Outside of the profession, there are bigger questions of how we compare with other countries and their support of paid breaks. The U.S. is the only advanced nation in the world that doesn’t guarantee workers paid time off according to a report titled "No-Vacation Nation - Revisited" by the Center of Economic and Policy Research, a liberal policy group.

And beyond taking leaves for medical reasons (including childbirth or caregiving of others) the least addressed or discussed type of extended break or leave is one for exploration to learn a new skill or a mental respite traditionally know as a sabbatical in academic circles. Is there a way to hack the illusive "break"? 

What if companies offered scholarships for those seeking to expand their professional and leadership development that also benefitted the sponsoring employer? What if professional sabbaticals were structured in a way as a benefit for reaching milestones of project goals, licensure, or tenure to reward productivity, project success and also improve talent retention? From restorative summer breaks as a youth/student, we could seek inspiration for transforming that experience into a healthy lifestyle practice throughout our careers. So don't be afraid to ask and find creative ways to negotiate for it - "Give me a break?"

For different takes on the theme #Architalks 10 "Summer Break", read from the following contributors to this worthy topic.

"Bob Borson - Life of An Architect @bobborson Architectural Bucket List"
"Matthew Stanfield - FiELD9: architecture @FiELD9arch SummerBreak?"
"Marica McKeel - Studio MM @ArchitectMM Summer Break = Extreme Architecture"
"Jeff Echols - Architect Of The Internet @Jeff_Echols Summer Break and Aunt Loretta"
"Lee Calisti, AIA - Think Architect @LeeCalisti summer break"
"Lora Teagarden - L² Design, LLC @L2DesignLLC Vacationing with an Architect"
"Mark R. LePage - Entrepreneur Architect @EntreArchitect 2 Simple Systems That Will Transform Your Studio"
"Cormac Phalen - Cormac Phalen @archy_type MILES AND MILES OF ROAD "
"Jes Stafford - Modus Operandi Design @modarchitect Summer Getaway"
"Michele Grace Hottel - Michele Grace Hottel, Architect @mghottel #Architalks 10 - "summer break""
"Meghana Joshi - IRA Consultants, LLC @MeghanaIRA Architalks: There, but not there"
"Amy Kalar - ArchiMom @AmyKalar Summer Break"
"Tara Imani - Tara Imani Designs, LLC @Parthenon1 A Brilliant Summer Break"
"Brian Paletz - The Emerging Architect @bpaletz Summer Vacation"
"Eric Wittman - intern[life] @rico_w summer break [or] summer school"
"Sharon George - Architecture By George @sharonraigeorge Summer Break #ArchiTalks"
"Brinn Miracle - Architangent @simplybrinn Summer Break"
"Stephen Ramos - BUILDINGS ARE COOL @sramos_BAC Architect: Gift or Curse?"
"brady ernst - Soapbox Architect @bradyernstAIA The Education of an Architect"
"Michael Riscica - Young Architect @YoungArchitxPDX The Architecture Students Summer Break"

Licensure -Just Do It!

by Sharon Portnoy

Sharon Portnoy is a licensed architect in California and New York and is currently a Principal Consultant at Breuer Consulting Group, which specializes in executive search for the built environment.

To be honest, I never paid much attention to the “debate” about licensure in Architecture. It’s been in the air since, well, forever, and I never gave it much thought for several reasons. For me, licensure seemed the logical next step after years of rigorous training in school and “paying my dues” as an intern. Perhaps because I was an English major in college before going on to get my M.Arch., I craved the validation of being an Architect with a capital “A”. But beyond my personal experience, we are a profession that has, first and foremost, an obligation to ensure public comfort and safety. No matter how visionary and innovative our buildings are, people need to get out of them safely if there’s a fire. Sophisticated design and the poetic use of materials mean nothing if the building is not universally accessible. And as compelling as that transparent façade looks in the rendering, if heat gain and shear strength aren’t figured into the equation, a hot summer day or earthquake could make the spaces beyond it uncomfortable at best, dangerous at worst.

Architects complain a lot about how little recognition and respect we get from the public. In my mind, what licensure says to the world is that we don’t just draw pretty pictures. We are well-versed and competent in the business of making buildings that are safe, accessible and efficient. I would not go to a doctor who hasn’t passed her medical boards; why would a client choose an architect who hasn’t displayed at least basic competence in areas of life safety, accessibility, and professional practice?

Objections? Sure. These are the ones I hear often

1. The exam says nothing about your skill as a designer.
True. But it tests your fluency with the codes and standards that you need to internalize to become a good designer. Just as a grammar test can’t predict whether you’ll be the next William Faulkner or Toni Morrison, you really should know how to construct a sentence before you sit down to write a novel.

2. It’s hard! 
Yes. Yes it is. And it should be. Maybe the public doesn’t understand or appreciate the rigors of our profession, but we must. We need a basic understanding of structural and mechanical engineering, acoustics, resilience, ergonomics, accessibility, environmental impacts, economic outcomes, etc. so that we can collaborate with contractors and consultants and be effective leaders on project teams. We are the ultimate generalists and connecting all the dots is one of our greatest strengths. But doing so requires basic knowledge in a variety of areas, and our competence should be assessed and recognized. So yes, it’s hard, but we work in a challenging profession and assume a lot of responsibility. In my mind, licensure is a badge of honor that says an architect respects, values and is equal to the challenges and responsibilities that come with the title “Architect.”

3. It's time consuming!
Yup. And it doesn’t get any less time consuming the longer you wait. In fact, studying becomes more time-consuming, as the load calculations and force diagrams you learned in your Structures class in school fade further into the recesses of your memory. What’s more, life itself has a habit of becoming more time consuming as the years pass, so if you are relatively young and unencumbered by family responsibilities in your first few years out of school, get it over with! And if, by chance, you are considering licensure later in your career and are mired in mid-life responsibilities, take comfort in the fact that the exam can be taken section by section these days, and therefore broken into manageable bites.

4. It’s expensive.
Again, I can’t argue with this. Although the research suggests that licensed architects do have a financial advantage over unlicensed architects, one that grows over time, this is by no means a guarantee. But I can offer a few words of encouragement on this front. First, ask your employer to help. Many firms offer incentives for licensure, whether it’s paid time off for study time, help defraying exam costs, or a financial bonus upon achieving licensure. Make sure you know what your employer offers and take advantage of it! If your employer doesn’t have a program in place, ask them to start one. There are a host of arguments supporting the benefits to firms that have a high percentage of licensed professionals. Do some research and make your case. If that doesn’t work, get creative. Start an Indie-Go-Go campaign, or when your relatives ask what you want for Christmas, tell them you’re saving up to get your credentials and want a check --- preferably blank .

So now, 20 years after I first sat for the exam, I have finally given the “debate” some thought. Yes, the exam is imperfect and so is the profession. The process is onerous and the rewards seem thin. But I can say without reservation that I have never questioned or regretted my choice to get licensed. It has served me well in the way potential clients and employers see me, but perhaps more importantly in the way I see myself. Starting as a young woman in this profession in the early 1990s, I struggled with presenting myself as a credible, authoritative professional. There was a sense among some older architects and contractors that female architects, even those with professional degrees, were somehow not to be trusted with the serious business of building. Having the title “Architect” bolstered me against these assumptions and gave me the confidence to reject them. And as hard as it is to believe that female architects still contend with implicit bias in 2015, I feel that licensure is powerful tool for countering that bias. And one final note: after 20 years of professional practice, I have transitioned to a consulting practice, which focuses on executive search for the built environment. In my new role, I talk to a lot of firm leaders and look at a slew of resumes and LinkedIn profiles. I can say that while not all employers demand licensure, without exception they prefer it. So if you want your resume to float to the top of the pile ---JUST DO IT!