Blog %

There has been much discussion raised about "Why are women leaving Architecture? and more broadly, Why is the profession losing 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?

If not me, Who? If not now, When? Equity is Everyone's Issue.

In my nervousness for this speech and my moments of doubt, I’ve told myself firmly, ‘If not me, who? If not now, when?’ If you have similar doubts when opportunities are presented to you, I hope that those words will be helpful because the reality is, if we do nothing, it will take 75 years or for me, to be nearly 100, before women can expect to be paid the same as men for the same work
— Emma Watson - He for She


A few weeks ago, UN Women Goodwill Ambassador and actor Emma Watson gave the Pantheon of all speeches for equality and inclusion for a special event launching the HeForShe campaign at the UN Headquarters in New York. If you have not seen the video or read the transcript, I highly recommend that you do. The most poignant 8 words of her monologue that resonated the most : If not me, who? If not now, when?

As we approach Equity by Design on October 18th next week, I vividly remember being confronted with the same question over a year ago after the 2nd Missing 32% Symposium; What would I do to change inequity in professional practice? From talking to other women in architecture, there was much in the way of anecdotal evidence of similar challenges in their careers. However, statistics and surveys around this topic were lacking in substantive data; Data that could be the calling card to initiate a difficult but necessary conversation about Equity in professional practice. The very existence of The Missing 32% Project was dependent on the my decision to "act" and subsequently the people who have joined and supported our work. In this last year, it has caused a chain reaction of "actions" which resulted in a collective Movement for Equity beyond our wildest imagination.  

The issues surrounding Equity in Architecture are not necessarily black and white, openly discriminatory, or right vs. wrong. They are more complex and nuanced in implicit biases and stigmas; a working culture embedded with gender and cultural ideologies going beyond architecture and a profession wrought with challenges trying to keep up with a rapidly advancing world. While systemic changes may seem daunting and impossible in our career lifetime, I believe that individuals choosing to engage in the conversation and taking action (grass roots) is just as vital and necessary as institutional/corporate change. 

 Presenting The Missing 32% Project origins and goals at the Industry Leader's Roundtable

Presenting The Missing 32% Project origins and goals at the Industry Leader's Roundtable

This past week, I presented at the 5th Annual Industry Leader's Roundtable hosted by the Beverly Willis Architectural Foundation at the IBM Learning Center in Armonk, NY.  This year's program discussed Centered Leadership as a foundation for Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity.  Fiona Cousins, Principal of ARUP and BWAF Trustee presented "Diversity and Inclusion Knowledge Cards" an initiative started by Erin McConahey, Principal of Arup in partnership with the Society of Women Engineers. The knowledge cards feature provocative questions, summaries of current research, and intriguing data points to start conversations in the workplace and beyond. Arup and SWE have made these cards available for purchase or knowledge card activities readily available on their website. The biggest takeaway from our discussions was a salient point made by our McKinsey facilitator; In order to make change happen, the accountability of putting a plan into "action" needed to occur within 48 hours of the initial commitment.  

On October 18th for Equity by Design: Knowledge, Discussion, Action!  While we will be sharing the much awaited results of the survey, we will also be asking attendees and supporters to commit with us to make change happen. Whether it is at the individual level for your own professional development, the firm level for mentoring, sponsorship or starting the Equity discussion in your office. Or will you commit to act at the professional level of outreach for practice as an ambassador for Architects to the community? We are at an important point in this nascent movement for Equity in Architecture. Beyond the rhetoric, we want action and accountability. We have the ability to make it happen. Will you join us?

Written by Rosa T. Sheng, AIA, LEED AP BD+C