Written by Taylor Holloway
Speaking up is hard. Being the only one is hard. Succeeding in your profession without an abundance of support, peers, or mentors with shared commonalities, is even harder.
The #EQxDV Symposium, the 2018 Equity in Architecture Survey, and the AIA Guides for Equitable Practice, are the courageous efforts that give validity to the systemic, accepted, and covert, biases and injustices within architectural education and practice since the history of United States. Prior to the #EQxDV Symposium, I had never been able to articulate, voice, or discuss my experience of architectural education and practice that 90% of licensed architects have not experienced, and largely, cannot comprehend.
For the first time ever, alongside a band of driven equity and justice warriors, I recognized that I was not alone in my experience both at school and in practice. I am not alone in being the only black woman in my graduate M.Arch class. I am not alone in being told by firm leadership that I was “just was not a good fit” irrespective of my professional performance. I am not alone in grappling with the reality, cost, and isolation of being the first generation in my family to attend college as well as the first to attend graduate school. And most importantly, I am not alone in deciding to commit myself to changing the profession of architecture.
The #EQxDV Symposium was undoubtedly an exceptional event, but more so, it was a space of true dichotomy. It is a space where both pain and joy were unearthed. It is a space where both fact and feeling were examined. It is a space where both reality and the means for mobilizing a new reality convened. Above all, it is a space that architecture needs.
During a morning workshop - Intersectionality and Intercultural Intelligence, we utilized Milton Bennett’s Intercultural Development Continuum to aid us in pinpointing our personal Intercultural Mindsets. Our talented and patient facilitators helped participants identify how we each dis-engage with or actively integrate our understanding of cultural difference into our lives. Applying actionable tools and processes to confront inequity and bias that exists in all forms of professional practice, not just architecture, isn’t impossible--but it is work. It is work that requires iteration and a conscientious effort to be inclusive and self-aware.
Among the many learnings I drew from the Intersectionality workshop and the Symposium, what resounded most is that moving towards equity, justice, diversity and inclusion is not solely the work of the underrepresented. It is the work of all of us. Only in collaboration and from a place of openness can architecture emerge on the other side of history as an adaptable, valued, relevant, and evolving profession.
Tiffany Brown, the founder of 400 Forward, spoke at the Symposium about whether it is fair to steward African American women into a field where they will be underrepresented and undercompensated. And it is true; according to the 2018 Equity In Architecture survey data, black women in architecture may find themselves possessing a master’s degree and still earning less than a white male counterpart with only a bachelor's degree. And it is true; in 2018 we’re still addressing whether a millennia old profession can be made equitable enough to include individuals of different races, creeds, gender identities, socio-economic backgrounds. Yet everyone at the #EQxDV Symposium was in attendance because they possess a belief, or at a minimum a hope, that the evolution and relevance we seek as a profession, will only come after we have made space for the very populations architecture never intended to make space for.
This past week I had the privilege of witnessing Tamara Burke, the founder of the #MeToo movement, give a keynote address. Listening to Tamara, I began to fully understand that those of us working to overcome an injustice or a form of trauma can only do so if made aware that we are not alone. The EQxDV Symposium exists not simply to affirm the profession’s real challenges of inequity and bias, but to serve as a foundation and wellspring of encouragement for the efforts that are propelling the profession forward and ushering in new generations of designers, architects, and leaders.
The #EQxDV Symposium was a gathering of the most welcoming and authentic group of individuals in the profession that I have ever encountered. It is also the only gathering of architects I have ever seen collectively decide that they care enough about the profession to mobilize and develop strategies to evolve the field so that its future may look nothing like its past. It was an honor to attend the 5th Equity by Design Symposium, and I reiterate: it is a space that architecture needs.
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