Looking inward and outward, architects make strides toward more significant inclusion in the field
AIA brought together architects and allied professionals to discuss what is changing and what yet needs to change to support a more equitable, diverse, inclusive workforce in a year-long event series.
“As our nation becomes ever more diverse, all areas of our society must reflect the trend. It’s not a secret that architecture as a profession has fallen behind,” said 2019 AIA president William F. Bates, FAIA, at the inaugural event for AIA’s 2019 speaker series “Embracing our differences, Changing the world.”
Organized to acknowledge the contributions of architects from diverse backgrounds, events in the series celebrated the history, contributions and challenges faced by African Americans, Native Americans, LGBTQ+ and Hispanic and Latino/a individuals, and women. Throughout the year, local AIA chapters, firms, and allied organizations across the country brought industry leaders representing identity-based groups together to examine the state of the profession and propose solutions for overcoming bias head-on.
“We've all faced individual challenges related to our identities. They range from tokenism to assumptions of quality of work,” said Siboney Diaz-Sanchez, AIA, at the AIA and AIA San Antonio Latinos in Architecture event held in honor of National Hispanic Heritage Month. “Issues we encounter could be based on gender, age, ethnicity, sexuality, race and often they're mixed. You don't know why you're being discriminated against.”
Barriers to overcoming discrimination are different for each identity-based group as well as each person within them. Broadly, these and other types of exclusions affect architects’ ability to feel comfortable and safe as well as their ability to make contributions to the built environment.
Despite the challenges and obstacles created by implicit and overt biases many of the speakers have overcome, they continue to enjoy success as architects and are recognized for their leadership in the community. A common trait is their ability to put positive and negative experiences in perspective, and another is a focus on how to make the profession more diverse, equitable, and inclusive, for the next generation.