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There has been much discussion raised about "Why are women leaving Architecture? and more broadly, Why is the profession losing key talent?"  Both women and men practitioners are disillusioned by the myth of work/life balance: Women are grappling with "have it all" expectations of juggling family time with the demands of full-time work.  Men are struggling to support their families solely on an architect's salary and fall back on asking spouses to maintain their jobs. The lack of affordable childcare and high cost of living only magnifies the challenges.  How did we end up in this modern family dilemma? What can we do to improve the situation?

Notes from Nola: Design Forward Conference 2013

The Design Forward Conference held in New Orleans on October 18, 2013 was a huge success for bringing into light so many of the common themes that The Missing 32% project also seeks to explore.

There was an interesting (and I thought appropriate) balance of students and professionals.  The conference was held at the Tulane School of Architecture, giving terrific access to the current student body.  There was also a balance of men and women from the industry, who participated, both as attendees and as panelists. This was intentional and varies from tendency for women dominant participation at similar events including the past Missing 32% Symposiums and the recent AIA Women's Leadership Summit in Phoenix.

The entire podcast can be found here:!/MEDIA

Three major observations that were noteworthy for further discussion:

  1. A “Speed Mentoring” session was held before the conference officially began.  For an hour students and a broad spectrum of design professionals had one-on-one Q&A…it was fun and engaged the students effectively. 

  2. The Design process panel consisted of very talented women, both in academia, active practice and related design fields.  Interestingly, there was no one represented from large firms.  And as it was pointed out by an audience member, over 75% of registered architects actually work for large firms.  How do we get more women who are in leadership positions in the larger practices to become involved in our discussion?

  3. Of particular note was the dialogue on the Leadership and Diversity panel, especially from the three men.  They are completely passionate about the fact we have to address the shrinking talent pool of women and men if our industry is to be successful in the future.  The discussion roamed from the cost of education to on-site day care.   How do we leverage this kind of recognition within the research?

 And finally, our firm invited a woman from each of our six studios to attend the conference.  The experience brought them together and energized them to ask me…’what’s next?’  So we have started our own internal research exercise called “Know Your Numbers”.  Will let you all know what we find out!

by Trudi Hummel, AIA