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  • September 16, 2019

    The AIANY Women in Architecture Committee hosted a networking event at Riverside Park on September 7, where representatives from architecture and engineering firms that have in-house groups championing Women’s Leadership Initiatives were present. They continued the conversation on how to promote women to leadership in the profession from the Inaugural Women’s Initiative Groups Forum in May, earlier this year. It was a casual, fun, engaging conversation that opened up a lot more discussions and initiatives to be carried forward.

    Thank you to Rebecca McCarthy from Dattner Architects for leading a discussion on “Marching Further” and Sara Ngan from FX Collaborative for leading a discussion on “Gender and Diversity Equity in Panels.”

  • September 11, 2019

    In the wake of the #MeToo movement in the architecture community and the release of Part I of the AIA Guides for Equitable Practice, many firms are revisiting their Employee Manuals or Firm Handbooks to ensure proper procedures are implemented in providing an equitable workplace with policies and benefits to serve the staff and the firm.

    On August 21, 2019, the Women in Architecture Committee and the Professional Practices Committee held a panel discussion with industry leaders who shared their experience and knowledge and offered their advice for best practices of improving or preparing the Firm Handbook to be relevant in today’s workplace environment.

    The moderators, Maya Porath and Priyanka Shah from The Architecture Lobby, had pertinent questions based on four main topics:

    1. What is a Handbook and the understanding the legal status and framework of a Handbook and the way it applies to people in the office?
    2. What are the Policies and Benefits that are applicable with the current social awareness of #MeToo and Equity & Diversity?
    3. How office culture contributes to a progressive handbook.
    4. How the handbook can help Raise the Standards to improve conditions of employment in the architectural profession and go beyond the minimum legally required conditions of employment to create a more stable and secure workplace.

    The panel speakers, Bradley Lukanic, AIA, CEO, CannonDesign; Joel Peterson, SHRM-SCP, Associate Director of Human Resources, KPF; Angelica Ruano, Partner, Plainspace Architecture & Design; and Diane Windholz, Labor and Employment Attorney, Jackson Lewis, all contributed resourceful information and expert insights on the discussion topics.

    Question cards were handed out to the audience and some were answered during the event. However, due to time constraints, a number of great questions were not presented. Therefore, we have transcribed the questions and forwarded them to our panelists for them to follow up with additional reference information related to their expertise. Listed below are the answers to most of them:

    Q: What might an office handbook represent to an employee that has never signed a contract or received a letter of employment? Does the notion of being an at-will employee preclude the accountability or legal standing of an office handbook?

    Diane Winholz: The handbook represents a guide to all employees, including employees who have signed a contract of information regarding the company’s expectations and what employees can expect from the company, e.g.: no-harassment and non-discrimination policies, benefits, performance evaluations, promotions, code of conduct and dress code.  The at-will status of an individual’s employment is typically confirmed in the handbook and does not preclude in any way the standing of the handbook.  The handbook is not a contract and typically includes a disclaimer expressly stating it does not constitute a contract of employment.

    Q: How do small firms get access to the resources required to make an office handbook? Should handbooks be mandatory for small offices?

    Diane Windholz: All offices should have some form of a handbook which includes, at a minimum, anti-harassment policy, anti-discrimination policy, sick leave policy, family medical leave, and lactation policy.

    Angelica Ruano: Resources for small offices are: use a general sample template on line, ask a friend ( some small offices share a sample of their handbook), have an attorney draft a version that applies only to that office.

    Q: What could be included in office handbook to help dismantle the wage gap? What course of action can a woman take if she discovers that she is being paid less than her male co-workers of equal level and position?

    Diane Windholz: Address the issue with her supervisor or human resources. If unsatisfied with the response internally can file complaint with administrative agencies (City Commission, State Division, EEOC) or court action.

    Angelica Ruano: It has to be clarified in the handbook that being at same level and position as other employees does not mean salaries have to be equal regardless of gender. Items such as dedication to office, amount of hours worked, if one employee contributes to bringing in clients and the other one doesn’t, longevity with the office—these factors and many others have to be considered by the employee and employer in order to make salary assessments.

    Q: If the handbook is not a legal document and at odds with the employee’s work contact (e.g. work hours), what is the point of a handbook? Should not employee contracts be amended with every handbook edition?

    Diane Windholz: Although the handbook is not a legally binding contract, it is critical in establishing expectations for both employees and employers. The handbook provides employees with guidance regarding rules of the workforce, including time and attendance, reporting absences and lateness, benefits, leaves of absences, performance reviews and bases for termination.

    Q: Aside from the new harassment regulations, what other absolutely mandatory regulations exist for employees which requires a written policy and training?

    Diane Windholz: The only mandatory training is for sexual harassment. The employer must have harassment policies, earned sick leave policies, family medical leave, and a lactation policy.

    Q: Are there protections against political harassment or discrimination based on an employee’s political views? Provide advice about handling political discussion at the workplace.

    Diane Windholz: In New York, employees may not be discriminated against for engaging in lawful activities, which would possibly include political discussions. If employees are engaging in political discussions at work which are disruptive to other employees, they should be cautioned about making their co-workers uncomfortable and asked to refrain from engaging in the discussions during work time.

    Q: Is it best to have a handbook with “just the basics” or those things required by law?

    Diane Windholz: It is not a one size fits all solution. Policies required by law naturally must be included. It is recommended that additional polices be included relating to benefits, time and attendance, and leaves of absences. Some companies choose to include policies regarding dress code, fraternization and moonlighting. If the company will not enforce these policies they should not be included.

    Q: In my experience, one of the most egregious offenses that I have seen in multiple firms is a general lack of transparency about pay equity, promotion, hiring practices and an outline of expectations based on the job title. Where should these topics/information be located? How do you avoid creating policies for different people?

    Diane Windholz: Information regarding promotion and hiring practices can be included in the employee handbook. The only way to avoid creating policies for different people is that they are applied consistently. Outlines for expectations based on job titles can be included in the job description and in performance reviews.

    Q: I recently received an offer letter from a firm and they included the entire manual with the letter. What do you think about sharing the policies during the hiring process? When do you share your policies?

    Angelica Ruano: The policies should be shared during the hiring process so that all understand the expectations and there are no surprises at a later time.

    Q: How do you deal with harassment by consultants? How do you handle harassment of your firm’s employees by workers at other offices you partner with?

    Diane Windholz: Harassment by consultants should be handled the same way as a complaint of harassment by an employee.  The complaint should be investigated by speaking with the complaining employee, any witnesses and the consultant who is alleged to have engaged in the harassment.  If the harassment is confirmed, appropriate disciplinary action to end the harassment must be taken. If the harassment is by employees at other offices, the supervisor and/or human resources department of those offices should be advised of the harassment.  They have an obligation to investigate and end the harassment.

    Q: What key office policies or actions have helped you retain talent?

    Angelica Ruano: Communication, mentorship, an even hierarchy for all employees, an open office environment, team building by socializing together, employee retreats..

    Q: Can office handbooks be peer-reviewed? What would it mean to have employees review and edit an office handbook on a yearly basis upon organizing a new contact?

    Angelica Ruano: We have typically these discussions on a one to one basis during employee reviews. additionally, we have office retreats and social events where everyone voices their concerns and participate with ideas to resolve problems.

    Q: I’ve come across firms that will celebrate the fact that their employees, while on a family leave, continue to be involved with their project(s), even if remotely. The read I get from this scenario is one of exploitation and employment precariousness where the employee feels at risk of losing their job. How do we enforce family leaves without having the employee feel like they are risking their job when taking family leave, when this is their right, especially to be disconnected for that time and without overloading those in their team?

    Angelica Ruano: It is the law to enforce it. the employee has to sign off and stay off during leave. If the employer is requesting work during leave the employee has to file a complaint or bring this up with hr or employer in general.

    Q: As an employee, I think my office handbook has a lot of deficiencies and needs to be updated, particularly with respect to maternity leave, sexual harassment and unconscious bias issues. What is your advice for convincing my three male principals that these issues are important and that updating the handbook should be a priority?

    Angelica Ruano: Maternity leave and family leave are required by NY state law for anyone that has worked 28 consecutive weeks in an office is eligible for Paid Family Leave. depends on the size of the office in regard to requesting an update to the manual. but in a small office, sending an email to the principals would be a good start. Larger offices have HR departments that can help with these items.

  • September 4, 2019

    Topic: ‘Stop Waiting to be Picked: Start Writing for Design Publications’

    On September 17, 2019 at 3:00 pm (EDT)

    You can register here.

    Mia Scharphie was the WIA 5/22 Build Yourself Workshop presenter on ‘Setting Ambitious & Creative Career Goals’. She is collaborating with Evelyn Lee to run this free training for designers on how to boost your expertise and visibility by starting to write for design publications in your free time.

    Webinar Training | Get Started Writing & Get Your Name Out There

    Becoming a published writer in design publications can boost your recognition–inside and outside of your company, and help you develop your voice and perspective. But how do you get started, and get your foot in the door? Wondering how people get picked for these opportunities? Wondering even if you did, how you’d make the time given your busy day-to-day?

    In this session with creative career coach for women Mia Scharphie and architecture practice expert and writer Evelyn Lee of the Practice of Architecture, we’ll bust through the myth that you have to wait to be picked, walk you step-by-step how to start writing for design publications, and teach you how to align your new writing habit with your creative growth at work.

  • August 19, 2019

    To foster a stimulating design and professional practice exchange, AIA New Orleans will host a full-day symposium of design presentations and discussions of professional practice strategies, centering the voices of women in architecture from New York and New Orleans as a means to develop and promote women leaders in architecture and the allied design and building industries, with goals and initiatives to the advancement of women in the architecture profession.

    Architects from each city will showcase projects in the context of the communities they serve, followed by a lively and engaging series of discussions focused on Design Leadership, Workplace Culture, Professional Practice & Development, and Advocacy & Activism.

    Please register here.

    Please feel free to share the event on Facebook using this link: https://www.facebook.com/events/2432143180198104/

    Friday, 27 September 2019 | 8:00 am to 5:00 pm

    AIA New Orleans Center for Design | 1000 St Charles Ave, New Orleans

    Morning Session | Design Presentations: “Centering Communities by Design”

    • Pre-Exchange Program (8:00 am)

    Breakfast, Presenters Briefing

    • Opening Remarks & Introduction (9:00 am)
    • Design Presentations: Urban Design

    AIANO: Prof. Fallon Samuels Aidoo | University of New Orleans

    AIANY: Vivian Lee | Richard Meier & Partners

    • Design Presentations: Education & Environment

    AIANO: Emilie Taylor Welty | Colectivo

    AIANY: Sara Lopergolo | Selldorf Architects

    • Design Presentations: Community & Housing

    AIANO: Tracie Ashe | StudioWTA

    AIANY: Wells Megalli | Deborah Berke & Partners

    Networking Lunch | Catered by City Greens | 12:00 pm

    Afternoon Session | Roundtable Discussion: “Equity in Practice” | 1:00 pm to 5:00 pm

    • Roundtable discussions to be facilitated by NO + NY practitioners

    Design & Leadership | Jennie Cannon West (studioWEST) and Cameron Ringness (FXCollaborative)

    Workplace Culture | Angela O’Byrne (Perez) and Rosalind Tsang (RAMSA)

    Professional Practice & Development | Paula Peer (TPA) and Alexandra Cuber (Fogarty Finger Architecture)

    Advocacy & Activism | Sue Mobley ( Colloqate) and Arielle Weiss (Urbhan Architects)

    Networking Reception  | 6:00 pm – 8:00 pm

    • Venue designed by women and owned/operated by women, catered by female chef/caterer

    Saturday, September 28 | 9:00 am to 12:00 pm

    Women Built Central City Tour

    • Oretha Castle Haley Boulevard roughly between Felicity Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard
    • Featuring neighborhood history, projects, and spaces designed/built/developed/led by women
  • We are excited to share with you an opportunity to participate in a discussion on design leadership with Sara Lopergolo (Partner, Selldorf Architects) and Vivian Lee (Principal, Richard Meier & Partners and AIA New York Women in Architecture Committee Co-Chair). They will both be in Minneapolis for the Women’s Leadership Summit on 9/12, arriving a day early in order to meet and engage with local women architects in a stimulating conversation about Women Leadership in Design.

    The Design Salon is an informal event intended to give women design leaders a platform to share their work and for the participants to discuss various collective initiatives to elevate and promote women in design leadership roles. Sara, and Vivian, along with Jennifer Yoos (Principal/CEO, VJAA), and Mary Springer (Senior Associate, Snow Kreilich Architects) will present selected projects, followed by a lively discussion moderated and facilitated by Karen Lu (Snow Kreilich Architects, Minneapolis) and Rosalind Tsang (RAMSA, New York) on topics that are pertinent in Design and Leadership.

    What: Design Salon

    Where: Perkins and Will | IDS Center, 80 South Eight Street, Suite 300, Minneapolis

    When: Wednesday, September 11, 7:30-9:00 pm

    Who: 65 people will be accepted on a first-come, first-served basis

    RSVP: Email Karen Lu at karen@snowkreilich.com if you would like to attend. Perkins and Will will provide beverages, but please bring a favorite snack to share with others. Thank you!

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