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What Does Real Action Toward Achieving an Equitable Profession Look Like?
Architect Magazine
Washington, DC, USA
Media, Architecture, Interior Design
Wanda Lau
Date Published: 
Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, Racism, Interviews, BIPOC, Q/A, Leadership, Architecture
Tapestry Statistics:
2020-08-17 17:02:07
2020-08-17 17:38:19
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Architect Magazine
ARCHITECT asked a dozen designers of color to share what would convince them that the recent calls and vows to improve diversity, equity, and inclusion in the AEC sector would lead to meaningful, lasting change.

In response to the recent, sustained calls to improve diversity, equity, and inclusion in the AEC sector, ARCHITECT asked 12 thought leaders from across the country to weigh in on what meaningful, actionable change can look like for the profession. We asked each participant the following two questions with the option to add whatever else they wanted the profession to hear.

  1. What will convince you that this call for change is different?
  2. What actions, from your own experiences or observations, have effected real change?
Maya Bird-Murphy, Assoc. AIA
founder and executive director, Chicago Mobile Makers, Chicago

What will convince you that this call for change is different?
Improving diversity, equity, and inclusion has finally become “mainstream.” I’ve seen statements of solidarity from many AEC companies, but these statements must be backed up by action steps. I won’t be convinced that real change is happening until firms have DEI action steps written into their business plans and until they have employee-led committees that have the power to keep firm leadership accountable. AIA and other national organizations should be putting pressure on firms to create such action steps.

What actions have effected real change?
Unfortunately, I haven’t seen many action steps implemented in the past or firms prioritizing diversity, equity, and inclusion. Hopefully, that’s changing. Some positive moves I have seen are DEI committees forming, employees organizing and pressuring the leadership to create action steps, and Juneteenth becoming a paid holiday.

Teri Canada, AIA
co-founder and managing principal, Evoke Studio Architecture, Durham, N.C.

What will convince you that this call for change is different?
Architecture firms need to train and promote African Americans, other people of color, and women to leadership positions. We should not only be designated as diversity leaders but also as principals and directors of design, architecture, and management. I am not suggesting to promote individuals without the correct qualifications, but to actively help them achieve the necessary training for these positions.

Architecture firms also need to “feed the pipeline” and develop initiatives that expose young children to the architecture and design fields. By the time many children in underserved areas find out about architecture, it is too late to develop the portfolio required to enter an accredited architectural school. By feeding the pipeline, we are able to get more African Americans and other POCs into architectural programs and give firms a more diverse talent pool.

What actions have effected real change?
Evoke Studio and other firms I have worked for in the past have developed programs that feed the pipeline of future talent from communities of color. NOMA's Project Pipeline and Michael Ford's Hip Hop Architecture Camp are empowering young people to effect change in their communities through design. We need other national organizations to lead their own initiatives or join with NOMA to expand these programs. Because these programs are relatively new, seeing positive results reflected at the professional level will take time. The first sign of promise will be increased numbers of African Americans and POCs in accredited architecture programs.

The U.S. is in the early stages of investigating issues of racial disparity and injustice. It will take time before all industries are able to achieve meaningful change. I am hopeful that this change will happen in my lifetime.

What else do you want to add?
My answers are specific to the profession of architecture, but they can be applied to all AEC related industries.

Melissa R. Daniel, Assoc. AIA
architectural designer, AMAR Group LLC; design advocate, Washington, D.C.

What will convince you that this call for change is different?
Systemic racism cannot be solved by forming a committee, workshop, or webinar. This process takes years, likely decades, as well as commitment and humility. The BIPOC community seeks serious change; the current calls to action are buzzwords that were wordsmithed together without including tangible change. To convince me that the AEC profession is serious about improving diversity, equity, and inclusion, there must first be identification of and work