Last weekend I had the opportunity to attend the Equity by Design: Metrics, Meaning and Matrices symposium hosted by AIA San Fransisco. This marked the fourth year for the conference and it was sold out months ago, capping at a modest 250 attendees. The focus of the this event was to review the newly released findings of the 2016 Equity in Architecture survey, but on a broader level the mission of EQxD is focused on achieving equatable practice in architecture in order to retain talent, advance the profession and engage the public in understanding architecture's true value and impact. The majority of the day was spent reviewing the findings of the exhaustive 2016 survey, which continued the work spearheaded by the 2014 survey. There was a ton of information to navigate and review, and thankfully the infographics were on display throughout the day so I made sure to take a closer look during the breaks. There were panelists speaking on their reaction to the information and how it related in their experience, breakout sessions to dive into discussing the issues with others in the profession and, of course, lots of networking. An article in Residential Architecture does a good job of summarizing the highlights of the survey's findings, but these are my top 5 takeaways from the event:
1:: Rosa Sheng, EQxD Founding Chair and prime spokesperson, began the conference with this quote: "We all grapple with the paradox that tomorrow is not promised, but we make plans anyway". Noting the irony that as we go through the mountains of data culled by this most recent survey, which for the most part paints a very grim picture of women and minorities in architecture, we persevere despite it all. No newsflash here on the gender pay gap: Men averaged $94,212/year and women averaged $71,319/year; a difference of $22,893/year. Men averaged higher salaries 100% of time. n order to maintain a clear path ahead she provided tools for the struggle.
- Use the data for power as opposed to relying on anecdotes and heresay : support the research, share the data findings with others, see where you fit within the stats (how do you measure up?), make changes, re-assess and repeat.
- Build relationships: embrace technology, make connections, find and be a champion, commit to action
- Take on a hackathon mindset: get curious, predict what's next, defy tradition, get scrappy, fail fast and fail often
2:: If you don't articulate your goal and give it a voice, it is that much harder to gain support around your effort. By putting it out there, whatever it is, people can rally around it and advocate for your success. Of course sometimes you may put it out there and no one really gets it or supports it. Last year I was playing around with an idea about teaching creative process via weekly assignments, but I could never articulate the idea well enough to gain any traction. It was a bummer at the time, but it made me realize how important it is to be clear with your intention.
3:: One of the panelists, Jill Bergman a principal at HDR, illustrated her entire career as a bar graph showing the amount of hours spent working along with milestones in her career such as childbirth, divorce, (3) sabbaticals and several promotions. By being very transparent and authentic about her journey she showed us that a career in architecture has a lot of ups and downs and, teamed with a supportive organization, you can still progress to a leadership position. The main point here too, is finding the right fit at the right organization to support this journey, here's someone else's story.
4:: There were so many stand alone quotes, here are a few great ones:
- "Talks cheap, but it takes money to buy whiskey"
- "Being a savvy business person is not antithetical to being a great architect."
- "To get more women in leadership, we need more women in leadership!!"
- "Ordinary people who are paying attention and know how to mobilize people, get shit done!" Kat Gordon from the 3% Movement, check her out!
5:: As you know by now I'm a serious introvert and I went into this with equal parts of excitement and anxiety. But thanks to three fairly major milestone events in my professional career in the last couple of years, I knew that I would come out of this a different person than when I began, guaranteed. Thanks to last year's Women in Leadership Summit, the Equity by Design inspired event the ForWARD committee hosted in Portland and finally getting my architecture license, I feel like there's so much opportunity to expand within the design community and so much to learn. It certainly helps knowing that everyone is there for the same reason: to better understand where we are in the profession and to create a forward momentum individually and as a community.