In celebration of Pride Month, the AIANY WIA Committee facilitated a discussion at our June committee meeting, around the use of the non-gendered linguistic identifier “Womxn”. The term can be used to signal the inclusion of those who have traditionally been excluded from the feminist discourse. We hosted designers that shared their experiences of being members of the LGBTQIA+ community in the AEC industry, as well as potential solutions for a more inclusive industry.

Our speakers included Vanessa Hill, RA (she, her, hers) Senior Principal, Robert John Hill; A.L. Hu, AIA, NOMA, EcoDistricts AP (they, them, theirs) Design Initiatives Manager, Ascendant, and Sami Sikanas (she, her, hers) Intermediate Landscape Architectural Designer, Marvel Architects. Sara Ngan, AIA, LEED AP, (she, her, hers) Senior Associate, FXCollaborative and Advisory Board Member of the AIANY WIA Committee moderated the conversation. She started the discussion by clarifying terms such as ‘sexual orientation’, ‘gender identity’ and ‘gender expression’, and thoughtfully guided the conversation.

Each of the speakers shared their professional coming our story, and how it affected their personal and work lives, as well as their relationship with the term ‘womxn’. We learned how stereotypical gender binary perceptions can affect the way people are expected to behave, to how they dress in the workplace.  The panelists spoke about the mental health challenges, inner conflict, social stigma, and discrimination one may have to deal with as a member of the LGBTQIA+ community. They also provided insights into ways in which support and allyship can manifest such as the addition of pronouns in emails; supporting legislation for equal rights; inclusive company policies and healthcare (medical and mental); equitable recruitment; transitioning in the workplace guidelines, representation on panels, speaking engagements and interviews (all year round and not only during Pride Month); mentor shadow programs; Employee Resource Groups; and intentional efforts in self-education.

We are grateful to the speakers for their time and contribution, for answering the audience questions, and for showing us that when you have the freedom to express who you are, you bring your best and authentic self not only to work, but to your family, friends, and society. We are positive that the industry is evolving in the right direction and look forward to continuing this very important dialogue and becoming a more inclusive, empathetic, and diverse community. We thank everyone for their participation!

Some resources shared at the event:

The AIANY WIA June Committee meeting agenda, around town & related events, topics, good reads, speaker bios as well as a reference for gender sensitive terms can be viewed and downloaded here.

The following job opportunities were shared by our members:

Firms interested in participating in a ‘Return To Work Survey’ conducted by Cameron MacAllister Group may contact Annelise Pitts at