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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?

EQxD Get Real: I am Learning

by Lora Teagarden, AIA

Unlike many of the others writing on this topic of bias and privilege, I'm left feeling like I don't have much of value to say around this subject. Mostly because I was fortunate to live in an upbringing I'm learning would be called "privileged".

My parents got divorced when my sister and I were both very young, but they worked hard to make sure our bills were always paid and necessities provided. They saved to afford vacations and our annual round of shinguards and travel costs for soccer. We were not unlike most families in that we all worked hard, except we are white - which I’m learning sometimes brings a privilege all unto itself. And because of that, I'm continually learning…

I'm learning that I was blessed to grow up being taught that I can achieve anything I set my mind to - yes, even as a girl. No matter whether it was true or not, my parents allowed this dreamer to dream.

I'm learning that a support system is half the battle of fighting towards progress. Had I not had family, friends, or mentors there to support me during my struggles in life - and there have been many - I don't know where I would be today. From playing on the Men’s soccer team to petitioning for a Women’s team when the Athletic department didn’t want to fund it; from being recruited to play soccer in college to having to figure out new ways to cover the cost of college when they found out I was studying architecture and was told “architecture and sports don’t mix”; then getting divorced in the recession and moving myself over 2,000 miles back to my network of friends and family, with no job prospects and little portfolio of past work due to the constant moving of a military wife. My support system was there for me day in and day out and I’m learning the unfortunate reality that not everyone has that. I’m learning how much more that we need to grow in the efforts of championing each other.

I'm learning that equity needs to be a continual forward effort. When we choose to not act, learn, or start dialogue to move us forward like salmon up a stream, we're losing ground.

I'm learning that, when you haven't experienced a specific version of bias, empathy doesn't always translate. I recently ate my shoe trying to explain why you can't look at diversity as a snapshot. It involves history and so many benchmarks, but my empathy was lost in the wording and I hurt people. And for that I will always be sorry. I long for a world where merit and empathy and kindness rule, but I’m quickly realizing how much of a struggle lies ahead in removing bias from the world before that happens. I'm learning...

I'm learning that for every lost moment of nurturing my "little sister" (in the Big Brothers Big Sisters program), we lose 3 steps towards the unfortunate bias of life beating the optimism out of her. She has such a bright spirit and so much compassion, I'm learning how hard it is to keep that spirit alive when the biased odds of life aren't on her side. From navigating school systems to join clubs to helping provide access to her interest in art, I’m learning how to better help her learn and self-direct to build the life she dreams.

I'm learning that sometimes moving forward towards growth and equity means sitting still and listening. There is so much to be learned from others.

I'm learning that equity means different things to different people based on our backgrounds, but the most important thing is to come to the table vulnerable and willing to learn.

I'm learning...will you join me?