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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?

2016 EQxD Hackathon Recap Team 1: SWIPE RIGHT! with

A Brief by Daniel Teed, with reflections from Kelly Duignan, Carlos Velazquez, Tara Imani, AIA and Raya Ani, AIA

The Equity by Design 2016 Hackathon was one of the most empowering and perspective-expanding experiences of my architectural life. The lofty goals of the 4 hour session slowly emerged as the afternoon progressed. Beginning with presentations by design-oriented innovators, I, along with the other 24 session attendees, learned from the experts about ways to recognize problems and find solutions. We were challenged to “confront the status quo,” “Know the rules so we can break them.,” and were told, “Don’t think about your limitations – think about the possibilities.” Inspirational one-liners poured out of the presenters as they described their journeys. We also heard from Anthony Gold on how to perfect a presentation. This first hour of the workshop effectively riled us up for what was ahead.

 Team 1 in Ideation -     Carlos Velazquez, Kelly Duignan, Raya Ani,   Daniel Teed and Tara Imani, AIA

Team 1 in Ideation -  Carlos Velazquez, Kelly Duignan, Raya Ani, Daniel Teed and Tara Imani, AIA

Then, dispersed into groups, we were challenged to identify a problem, create a solution, and present to a jury. The next 2 hours were a whirlwind of brainstorming, collaboration, and building off of the experiences and skills of our groupmates. Charged with identifying a large-scale problem related to architecture, our group of designers, architects, and innovators struggled to land on one topic. We debated the problems facing students as they exited universities and entered the workforce. We discussed the limitations in software that created large learning curves for new employees and for seasoned architects alike. Finally, after touching on several different topics, we focused on the immense barriers to re-entry that most women face when attempting to re-enter the architectural profession after taking time off to start a family.


Brainstorming with strangers was never so exciting. For me, the EQxD Hackathon was a really important exercise in learning when to stop, evaluate your work, make a decision and move on.  We talked a lot about bridging the gap between architectural education and the profession.  We listed ways to connect people and opportunities, and explored if there were ways of measuring particular skills and strengths.  Our solution was ‘’ - a website for people in the world of architecture to connect, collaborate and strengthen each other.”            

Kelly Duignan


“It seems (useful to have) a Survival Guide or Mapbook of sorts to help navigate architecture careers - a crash course to help us re-tool and equip (including such curricula as REVIT, Sketchup, office culture/trends, email management, portfolio creation, and how to maintain a cutting edge portfolio).”

Tara Imani, AIA



With ever-evolving software, a need to stay relevant, and a pressure for all employees to be “billable,” it is currently very difficult for people who have taken a leave of absence from the field of architecture to find a firm willing to help them transition back into the profession. Our team proposed developing an online “matchmaker” that would pair employers with potential employees. Employers who were looking for part time or short-term work could create a profile and list what they were looking for and what they were willing to pay. Potential employees who desired to ease back into the profession would also create a profile listing their skills, availability, needs, and desired compensation. Employers and potential employees who had matching profiles would then be connected with each other for the potential of an interview.


"I believe this type of collaboration is our future. This event was definitely a highlight of the conference. I appreciated the speakers cutting to the point and sharing the invaluable knowledge they have garnered. The team format challenged us to step outside our comfort zones and be part of a team that has no past or future, only the present.  It somehow forces our egos to take a back seat to the creative process. Seamless interaction between all disciplines required to accomplish a single goal would be a masterpiece."

Carlos G. Velazquez


"After listening to panelists and fueled with inspiration from their powerful stories, we were off to hack.  I kept in mind the following things: trust your intuition, failures do not equal failures - failures are opportunities, speak up.  Our task was simple!  We were challenged to identify a problem in architecture and propose a solution."

Kelly Duignan


We presented our problem and solution to the jury in the form of a skit at the end of the 2 hour brainstorming session. Four other groups presented after us, tackling issues such as public architectural education, architecture detail libraries, user experiences of buildings, and intra-office employee management. Overall, the topics were unrestricted and broad. The solutions were innovative and future-focused. The energy of the afternoon was unparalleled. It opened my eyes, helping me envision a future unhindered by current problems in our profession, and helped me look past limitations to the possibilities.


“It was awesome to see what other groups came up with.  At the happy hour that followed, everyone agreed that we could have kept going.  Imagine the possibilities if we had even more time to disrupt and hack.  I left the session feeling truly energized and excited by all the others that were at the session, and looking forward to carrying a hacker’s mindset with me everywhere I go.            

Kelly Duignan


“What all 5 teams accomplished in 4 hours was inspiring to say the least. Taking different people in every aspect of life and to see the creativity that was generated gives hope. Hope that despite all the challenges we face in this life we can always come together and solve problems that at first appear larger than life. Looking forward to my next Hackathon :). “

Carlos G. Velazquez


"It is quite exciting when you see different ideas coming together into one idea. It emerges out of the space we create as a group that organically starts to shape and take form. It is all about that power of creation and being connected to others. We collectively and collaboratively found a solution within a process that supported the success of all team members. It's like a match made in heaven - to carry the spirit of a hacker is a value that I will take with me whether in my role as a founder and design Director of RAW-NYC Architects or as my role as the future President of American Institute of Architects- Middle East Chapter."

Raya Ani, AIA