Written by Maggie Gaudio
As I prepared to attend my first #EQXDV Symposium, I did not know what to expect. In all honesty, I wasn’t quite sure what “Equity by Design” really meant. Initially, I jumped to the conclusion that it meant “equitable design” since I am still in architecture school and have made it my personal goal to create socially conscious designs that benefit everyone as opposed to select groups of people.
My naivety became clear to me the moment the symposium began and I was exposed to Equity in Architecture Survey findings - data the organizers of the event had collected from over 14,000 professionals in the realm of architecture and design. This data covered the current climate of the profession in regards to gender, race, salary, values, work/life balance and so forth. The reality of this data and the conversations that flowed from it revealed to me that equity by design, although still related to equitable design, has a much broader and holistic meaning. I learned that equity by design means bringing understanding to the profession. An understanding that everyone is different and brings valuable, relevant qualities to the table. Therefore each should be appreciated and rewarded appropriately. Currently, there is a general awareness of this, yet not an overall understanding and implementation of it.
The following are some issues that I had encountered before attending the symposium but feel I learned about much more deeply throughout the event:
Women in architecture and the related fields are still being paid less than men.
Only about 440 black females in the country are registered architects. In the country!!
Many women leave the profession after having children.
The concept of work/life balance means something different to everyone.
These topics are prime examples of how today’s professional field of architecture is aware of the fact that people are different, yet there is not an understanding and appreciation of this difference. There is such a lack of understanding that women are either not getting licensed or leaving the field because of their race, their commitments to their families, or their unequal salaries. As a woman entering the profession and interested in one day having a family and a life outside of my job, this causes me significant concern. However, having attended the symposium - hearing from and speaking with people who share similar concerns as me - it was inspiring and refreshing to be surrounded by like-minded people as dedicated to creating a more inclusive professional field as myself.
This collective dedication and passion for the same cause was contagious and the sense of community was palpable. One of the several panelists that we had the pleasure of listening to, Damaris Hollingsworth, said that she believed the definition of community was when we intentionally behave as if we belong together. I wholeheartedly agree with this and it was clear that the attendees of the symposium intentionally behaved as if they belonged there and comfortably shared their thoughts with each other.
Unfortunately, I don’t think it is quite the same in the day-to-day reality of the architectural profession. Well, not yet. As with most cultural shifts, major changes don’t happen overnight. But the symposium is an example of first steps, of bringing awareness to the issues at hand and fostering an inspiring environment in which people can openly share ideas on how to make change happen. Throughout the day, there was an emphasis on the concept of champions - of being a champion for someone else and of having a champion for yourself. When we are surrounded by the support of such champions, we feel empowered to make a difference. I definitely felt (and still feel!) empowered by the champions I met at the symposium to become an increasingly engaged and active member of this community, united in the cause of creating a more inclusive and understanding profession.
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