The AIANY WIA Committee hosted an incredible event at A’23 in San Francisco, sold out with 250+ attendees on June 9, 2023. A’23 Equity for Women in Architecture: A Coast-to-Coast-Exchange brought together Women in Architecture (WIA), Women in Design (WID), and Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) Committees from across the country to share their most effective programs and initiatives supporting women’s advancement in the profession. We were thrilled to have AIANY 2023 President Matthew Bremer, AIA, AIANY President-Elect Gregory Switzer, AIA, and AIANY Interim Executive Director Jesse Lazar join us!

The program kicked off with an introduction by AIA New York Women in Architecture Committee Co-Chair Vivian Lee, FAIA, who presented the history of the WIA Design Practice Exchange (DPE) and key statistics of female representation in architecture. The WIA DPE started in 2016 with 2 NYC firms’ women’s groups meeting in their board rooms to exchange resources and ideas for how to advance and support women in the profession. Since then, this grew into multiple DPEs between AIA Chapter WIA groups including New York, Minnesota, New Orleans, Austin, Miami, and New Jersey! We were reminded of the sobering statistics that women have remained around 25% of AIA Membership for a number of years, while FAIA female representation is at 18%. We have much work to do to achieve gender parity in our profession.

Following the introduction, presentations from AIA San Francisco Equity by Design Past Chair Rosa Sheng, FAIA; the Boston Society of Architecture 2020 BSA/AIA President Natasha Espada, AIA; and AIA New York Women in Architecture Committee Co-Chair Vivian Lee, FAIA, shared their chapter’s initiatives, programs, and events to promote, elevate, and advance women in architecture. Jenna Knudsen, AIA, from AIA Los Angeles Women in Architecture Committee, moderated a thoughtful dialogue, ‘Leading by Example: A Conversation on Equity,’ with insightful and valuable advice from the presenters. One key topic discussed was the perception that Women in Architecture groups are inherently exclusive. The presenters highlighted the importance of men as allies, sponsors, and mentors of women in helping to close the gender gap and barriers toward senior leadership and design roles. By working together, we can achieve greater inclusivity and diversity in our firms.

The program’s second half was a Roundtable Workshop with Co-Chairs and representatives from twenty-five (25) AIA chapters across the country as Table Leaders who facilitated a conversation about the most impactful strategies for supporting women’s advancement in the profession. The participants ranged from firm leaders, AIA leaders, practitioners, the academy, students, and more, all having a voice to contribute ideas and solutions toward more equitable and inclusive workplaces. Each table exchanged information, resources, and best practices to lay the groundwork for chapter programs and events to promote and elevate women in design and leadership roles. They also shared their experiences and initiatives on what they are doing within their organizations to advance women in the field. Ideas, comments, and suggestions were recorded under the four (4) WIA pillars: 1) Design & Leadership, 2) Professional Practice & Development, 3) Workplace Culture, and 4) Advocacy & Activism. We successfully generated over 100 thoughtful and original ideas to address issues impacting women under these pillars. We concluded the program with each Table Facilitator sharing their best-proposed solutions with the audience, crediting the idea’s originator within the group. The Facilitators were inspiring and passionate, reflecting the palpable energy in the room. Here are some of our favorite takeaways from the exchange:

Design & Leadership

  • Provide leadership training programs;
  • Recruit women and create intentional leadership opportunities;
  • Encourage early participation in firm leadership from incoming practitioners.

Professional Practice & Development

  • Research EDI metrics to create EDI policies ensuring equity in salary, promotions, opportunities

and access to resources and support;

  • Practice transparency of EDI policies;
  • Provide firm mentorship programs.

Workplace Culture

  • Provide schedule flexibility without shame;
  • Walk out on toxicity! Don’t work for employers or clients that persistently demonstrate lack of respect for your contributions, personal and professional boundaries.
  • Curate team building exercises centered around shared interests in literature, arts, physical activities, mental fitness & food.

Advocacy & Activism

  • Become active in local government, boards, and EDI policy-making bodies;
  • Publicly recognize the accomplishments and ideas of others;
  • Speak up! Advocate for a more enjoyable workplace when observing exclusive or unconscious bias by calling out bias.

You can view each table’s recommendations here. We are optimistic that the groundwork laid in presenting these ideas, taking them with us beyond the A’23 Exchange into our firms and workplaces, and taking them to our industry leaders will lead to the change we want to see. Thank you to everyone who attended and contributed to this successful event. A special thanks to the A’23 Coast to Coast steering committee, presenters, and roundtable facilitators for their hard work, handling all the logistics, communications, and behind-the-scenes preparation. We look forward to seeing you at our upcoming AIANY WIA events and in Boston at the AIA WLS on September 12-14, 2023!