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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?

Join Us to Make History...

Equity in Architecture Survey 2018

February 12  -  March 16, 2018

To commemorate our five year anniversary since the founding of Equity by Design, we will conduct our third national survey in hopes of reaching 10,000+ respondents. Building upon lessons learned in 2014 and 2016, the survey will raise the goal to reach respondents from architectural graduates and professionals across the nation. The survey is being designed by the Equity by Design/ACSA Research Team in collaboration with a national group of volunteers in the industry to develop survey goals. We will be capturing career experiences of architectural school graduates from accredited programs (regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, license status or practice status.)

Career Dynamics and Pinch Points

Career Dynamics and Pinch Points

Your participation will help generate the most comprehensive national dataset detailing current positions and career experiences of architecture school graduates. This research will examine the differential experiences of professionals based on gender, as well as race and ethnicity, and will shed light on equitable practices that foster sustainable, meaningful and satisfying careers in architecture for all practitioners. More information on the current survey is attached. For previous survey findings and analysis, including a narrated Video of the 2016 Key Findings, please visit

On average, the survey should take 20-25 minutes to complete. ACSA is serving again as the research partner for the project, completing survey analysis from April to August in 2018. The survey findings will be first revealed at Equity by Design's fifth Symposium on November 3, 2018, in San Francisco. 

INSPIRE% [08]: Elizabeth Shreeve - Let the Design Emerge

INSPIRE% [08}: Elizabeth Shreeve spoke with Mia Scharphie of Build Yourself, and a content partner and collaborator of Equity by Design.

Elizabeth Shreeve, design principal at the SWA Group is a woman with many creative interests. Her passion in both arts and science led her to study architecture, and today she’s a design principal, a published children’s book author inspired by her observations as a parent.

Like I learned in design, you need to give yourself a chance and let the design emerge from the sort of messy, creative process of trying things, brainstorming, failing, reaching dead ends, and then getting a better idea.
— Elizabeth Shreeve

1. Can you tell us a little bit about who you are and what you do?  

I am an urban planner and designer, and a leader in SWA Group’s San Francisco and Sausalito studios. I focus on urban infill and revitalization, campus planning, public outreach and communications, and have a special interest in health.

2. Why did you choose to study Landscape Architecture? 

My interest in natural systems led me to major in geology in college, where I soaked up art history and studio art classes as well. The two came together in landscape architecture.

3. What Inspires you on a daily basis? 

Outdoor places, from my overgrown hillside garden to the wide open San Francisco Bay. And my wonderful colleagues at SWA, a bunch of wonderful design nerds.

4. What are 3 of your most influential projects and Why? 

Guthrie Green, an urban park in Tulsa, Oklahoma, transformed a brownfield truck yard into a widely popular gathering place for outdoor concerts, fountains, art, farmers markets and food trucks. A geo-thermal exchange system under the park supplies heating and cooling for the adjacent nonprofit arts organizations.

UC Davis West Village is the first zero net energy planned community in the United States. In the implementation planning phase, the public-private partnership team of developer and University realized that we could go beyond sustainable design to achieve net zero. That was an exciting moment.

Currently I’m leading SWA’s work on the San Francisco State University campus plan update. Time will tell how influential the project is, but I’m also super excited by what I’m doing right now. SF State is a wonderfully diverse community and the campus landscape of historic valleys and forested slopes is challenging and intriguing for our design group.

5. What is the greatest challenge/difficulty that you have had to overcome in your professional career?

When younger, I was afraid to make mistakes. This led me to fall back on what was comfortable and came easily, rather than taking risks.

6. What do you believe has been one of your greatest accomplishments to date? Why?  

With the help of my wonderful husband, I managed to function as a principal at SWA while raising three amazing sons. And somewhere in there I got hooked on writing stories for children, some of which have made their way into publication. Check it out:

While it may seem like my role as a principal, and my work as an author are entirely separate, the creative process is the same whether you're coming up with a design or you're conjuring up a story. Like I learned in design, you need to give yourself a chance and let the design emerge from the sort of messy, creative process of trying things, brainstorming, failing, reaching dead ends, and then getting a better idea.

Then at a certain point the project gets taken over by others. With an architectural design, it gets taken over by people who have stronger technical skills than I do and they turn it into something more specific and more precise, with tools like 3d modelling, and they make it even better. The same thing happens with a story. You develop it and then the publisher takes it and gets an illustrator on board and all of a sudden the illustrator is bringing ideas to the table that you wouldn't have thought of. That's why a publisher keeps you apart from an illustrator in children’s books. They want the artist to bring their own magic to the process.


7. If you could go back in time, what would you tell your 24 year-old self?

I think as you master a craft, you can go one of two ways. You can go in the direction of becoming more regimented, or you can go in the direction of allowing yourself more freedom. I think that creative writing gave me the permission to loosen up a little bit and have more confidence and mastery.

The other thing that writing taught me is you really need to work from your heart. You need to work on things that you care about. In the beginning of my career I felt so grateful to have a job, and later, while raising three sons, I found a niche that was useful to my company and focused on accomplishing whatever needed to be done. As the kids got more independent I could get more creative and expand my range.

So my advice is to be brave! Grab the marker and draw! Listen to the quiet, intuitive voice inside, trust your ideas, and let the creative process unfold.

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8. What is the best advice that you ever received and how does that apply today?

Stand up straight. Even if you are tired or clueless or confused. Let your body convince your mind to pay attention.


9. How do you see Architecture changing in the next 10-20 years? What would your role be in the future? 

Building architecture may become more prototyped; for example, look at trends in small, fantastic modular homes. Landscape will always be organic, though. As a planner I will be looking for ways to keep people connected to nature and place. Technology-free zoning?


10. We have heard that while the general public respects Architects, they have little knowledge about what we do. Do you have any thoughts about how we can bridge the gap?

Maybe a children’s book series? Hmmm…

On Wednesday, January 3, 2018, Mia Scharphie will be running a free online session on how to set Ambitious & Creative Goals, and will be giving a preview of her course, Double Vision, which features Elizabeth Shreeve as a guest speaker. Find out more and RSVP here for the free session.


Help design the 2018 Equity in Architecture Survey!

Equity by Design is gearing up for our 2018 Equity in Architecture Survey, and we want your input! This project builds on previous survey research conducted in 2014, and 2016, and promises to set the stage for progress towards equity within the profession in the coming years.

There are a number of ways to get involved:

  1. Members of the Survey Design Committee will become subject matter experts on one or more research topics, and will be the most intimately involved in the survey design process. This group will work closely with the EQxD Research Chair, and the rest of the core committee to review Equity by Design’s research work to date, as well as outside research, to identify research questions within specified topic areas.  Each member of this group will be asked to focus on one-two topics, and will advise the rest of the team on the most pertinent research in those areas. This commitment will last from October-December of 2017, with the possibility of joining the Research Committee for 2018  in January.
  2. Focus Group Participants will participate in one-hour long feedback sessions on one or more research topics of their choosing (see list of topics in the form below). Focus Group participants will be asked to offer their input on research topics and questions developed by the Survey Design Committee. Participants are welcome to participate in as many or as few of these calls as they wish. Calls will be held weekly from October to December of 2017.
  3. The Survey Outreach team will help the core team organize outreach to potential survey distribution partners, including professional organizations, schools of architecture, and firms to encourage these entities to participate in the survey by sharing it with their mailing lists. This group may also assist with promotional efforts including press releases and blog articles. This commitment will last from November of 2017 through February of 2018.
  4. Beta Survey Takers will take the survey approximately a week before it is formally launched, and will then take a follow-up survey indicating questions that were confusing, glitches, etc. As we would like a small, but representative group of Beta Survey Takers from all areas of the profession, not all volunteers will necessarily be asked to pilot the survey. This commitment will last 1-2 hours in late January or early February of 2018.

In addition to these opportunities for participating in EQxD’s research project, there are a number of other ways to get involved. Please feel free to use the form below to let us know if you’d like to be contacted for other volunteer opportunities (symposium planning, communications, monthly meeting organization, etc) as they arise.

We hope that you’ll join us in planning for the next phase of the Equity in Architecture Research Project! Please use the form below to tell us how you’d like to participate.

Name *
How would you like to volunteer? *
How familiar are you with equity research, and the Equity in Architecture research project? check all that apply:
Which of the following research topics interest you the most (select up to 3)?


EQxD Quarter 3 - Charting Your Path

Our next quarterly topic will be a timely discussion about "Charting Your Path", which spans several related areas influencing talent retention. These include - professional satisfaction, aspirations for career progression and professional development, the likelihood of burnout vs. engagement, work/life flexibility and caregiving.

The expression "work–life balance" was first used in the United Kingdom in the late 1970s to describe the balance between an individual's work and personal life.[5] In the United States, this phrase was first used in 1986. Well, it's 2017 and in 30+ years that this term has been referenced, mis-used, and over-used; the quest for a harmonious state of equilibrium between our life and work remains illusive.  Moreover, Work/Life balance - the control and separation of the two sides has become disingenuous given the rapid evolution of technology and connectivity that has blurred the lines of where and how traditional work is being done. 

In the context of equitable practice, the concept of "Charting Your Path" expands the discussion beyond reactionary approaches into channeling our ability to be proactive in problem solving. The key findings from the 2016 Equity in Architecture Survey reveal Career Dynamics and Pinch Points that could pose challenges in your career. By understanding the factors that influence career success, we can explore the skills needed to "prepare and pivot" when difficulties arise. We will also discuss strategies for self-assessment to chart your progress (career mapping) and for being self-aware of how that relates to your personal and professional goals. Finally, we will share active ways to discuss adopting equitable practices in the workplace to minimize barriers and maximize the potential success for all professionals.

The subtopics of this quarter will include:

  • Paying your Dues - Challenges for early career professionals experience in the first 5 years
  • Caregiving - Whether caring for children or others, what are the impacts of reduced workhours?
  • Work/Life Flexibility - Within the Work/Life Dichotomy, how do we reconcile meaningful work and the need for personal restoration?

This week, please join us on, Thursday August 17th at AIASF from 6pm-8pm for our 3rd EQxD “U” Workshop "Charting Your Career Path: Creating a Roadmap for Success", where we will explore the many possible ways to conceptualize meaningful work that does not come at the cost of our personal health, wellness, and happiness. Panelists, Jill Bergman AIA of HDR Inc., and Lilian Asperin, AIA of WRNS will share how they set goals for navigating career goals, pivots and unexpected transitions with graphic mapping tools to guide key decisions.  They will also guide participants in reflecting on their own approach, how it is working for them and re-evaluate areas needing improvement.



EQxD Actions Re-Post - Know your Worth!

Happy Thursday, Equity Champions! This week, we're exploring Pay Equity by sharing findings from the 2016 Equity in Architecture Survey. We'll have another of these articles ready to share tomorrow. As we explore the data on Pay Equity, it's also important to consider the steps that each of us can take to advocate for ourselves and others. Action #9 from our EQxDActions Series offers a glimpse at the steps that you can take to determine whether you're being compensated appropriately, and to negotiate a raise if appropriate. Click on the link below to read more!