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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 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.



Announcing the Metrics Blog Series

#EQxDM3 attendees review key findings from the 2016 Equity in Architecture survey

#EQxDM3 attendees review key findings from the 2016 Equity in Architecture survey

Equity by Design is excited to announce “Metrics”, a new blog series that will unpack and explore findings from the 2016 Equity in Architecture Survey. In this series, we’ll cover key findings from the survey, and will also take a deep dive into each of the Career Dynamics and Pinch Points.

Additionally, we’ll provide further resources and reading so that you can learn more about each topic. These in-depth looks at our survey data will be accompanied by interactive graphics, which will allow you to explore our data even further.

“Metrics” posts will occur about once a month (usually on Wednesdays), and are  aligned with this year’s quarterly topics. This will enable us to integrate conversations about survey content into a broader conversation that will be fueled by our quarterly workshops, as well as by other initiatives, including: the Inspire% series, the Equitable Practice blog series, the ACSA blog series, and #EQxDActions (more on this next week!).

For more info on these quarterly topics, please see our post from earlier in the month.

Winter: Disrupt Bias

During the winter quarter, we’ll explore how to disrupt implicit bias. We’ll learn about the unconscious biases we all carry and leverage techniques to overcome our own assumptions about others.

Concurrent with this exploration, the “Metrics” series will provide insight into three issues that are commonly linked with implicit bias: the demographics of the profession, pay equity, and the Glass Ceiling. Also look out for a post on “Key Findings,” which will provide a broad overview of the survey findings.

Spring: Articulate Values

Spring quarter will provide an opportunity to reflect on how to articulate the value that architectural education,training, and the practice of architecture provide to society. We’ll consider the issue from a variety of points of view, exploring divergent career paths, design activism, and the value of professional licensure.

The “Metrics” series will provide context for these discussions by providing in-depth analyses of the following issues: “Education,” “Licensure,” and “Beyond Architecture.”

Summer: Chart Your Path

During the summer our attention will turn to charting your career path and do some serious thinking about how we as individuals organize our lives to achieve goals and stay connected within the profession.

To aid in these explorations, the “Metrics” series will provide analyses of Work-Life Flexibility as it relates to all respondents, and explore the experiences and the challenges of being a Working Caregiver.

Fall: Design Culture

We’ll close out the year with a conversation about the culture of our practices, schools, and profession as a whole by looking into the ways in which we can create culture that fosters creativity, design thinking and inclusivity.

The “Metrics” series will cover two issues that are often deeply linked to culture: Finding the Right Fit and Professional Development. The topics will allow us to explore issues like how “fit” is measured, and correlates with professional success, how cultural satisfaction and professional relationships are linked to success, and how fostering a culture of mentorship and transparency can lead to career satisfaction and increased retention.

We’re looking forward to your feedback as this series develops. Please let us know if you have a burning research question, if you have a great resource to share on an upcoming topic, or if you’d like to contribute a guest post on one of these topics!

EQxD "U" - Quarterly Topics for Equitable Practice

by Julia V. Mandell, AIA - AIASF Equity by Design Co-Chair

Throughout 2017 Equity by Design will explore four quarterly topics from the Equity in Architecture Survey through in-depth workshops, blog posts, twitter chats and other activities. These interrelated pursuits will allow us to develop a deeper understanding and gain the knowledge we need to take action for each area of focus.  

  • Winter: Disrupting Bias - January thru March
  • Spring: Articulating Values - April thru June
  • Summer: Charting Your Path - July thru September
  • Fall: Designing Culture - October thru December  


Winter: Disrupting Bias

Graphic by Rosa Sheng, AIA

Graphic by Rosa Sheng, AIA

Disrupting Bias is our lead topic for 2017. We’ll kick off with the 1st EqxD “U” Workshop of the year at AIASF on February 8th 6-8pm, Disrupting Implicit Bias. Everyone has implicit bias. We develop our biases through our environment, the people we engage with, and the culture we grow up in. These interactions shape the expectations we have for ourselves, colleagues, and even potential clients. Thus, bias can have a major impact on the design process and desired outcomes in our profession. Additionally, reflecting on our own “Bias Blind Spot” is critical to building empathy and foster a culture of open communication. We’ll learn about the unconscious biases we all carry and techniques we can use to disrupt our own assumptions about others. A diverse panel of advocates will reflect on their own experiences on both sides of bias and discuss strategies for change.

In the next few months on the blog we’ll explore survey findings in Pay Equity, the Glass Ceiling and feature Inspire% stories related to how people have overcome the challenges of bias. A twitter #EQXDChat will allow participants to reflect on bias through multiple points of view.


Spring: Articulating Values

In the spring we’ll investigate how Articulating Values in our profession and communities. We will put those values into action in every day practice and strategic ways. In April, at the 2nd EQxD “U” Workshop, “Becoming a Change Agent”, we’ll learn how to put our values into action and shift the status quo. A panel of change agents will share tools and techniques that go from identifying a problem to making a lasting impact. Then we’ll put our new skills into practice in a hands-on workshop activity,  

Concurrently, we’ll gain an understanding on the blog of survey data relevant to our theme in areas like Education, Licensure, and explorations Beyond Architecture. We’ll also read about strategies for equitable practice that allow firms to articulate their values and turn those values into action.


Summer: Charting Your Path

Mapping Exercise #EQXDM3 WorkLife Break Out

Mapping Exercise #EQXDM3 WorkLife Break Out

During the summer our attention will turn to Charting Your Path and some serious thinking about how we as individuals organize our lives to succeed both personally and within the profession. The 3rd EQxD “U” Workshop "Graphing the Work-Life Equation", will explore the many possible ways to conceptualize the relationship between our work and personal lives.  Panelists will share how they set goals for navigating work/life flexibility or integration and the strategies they’ve adopted. They will also guide participants in reflecting on their own approach, how it is working for them and re-evaluate areas needing improvement.

Our survey investigations will explore relevant EQiA 2016 Survey findings in Paying Dues, Work-Life, and Working Caregivers. A twitter #EQXDChat will give us a chance to discuss work-life strategies with our friends and allies nationally and internationally.


Fall: Designing Culture

Culture with Intent Symposium Break Out Matrices Board

Culture with Intent Symposium Break Out Matrices Board

As the days get shorter again we’ll shift our focus to Designing Culture and spend some time thinking about how we can create culture that fosters creativity, design thinking and inclusivity. Our 4th and last EQxD “U” Workshop "Culture With Intent", will offer a chance to examine the firm culture where we work and how we can participate in shaping it. Along with a panel of experts, we’ll evaluate office culture in relation to our personal values, address any incongruities, and develop strategies to affect positive outcomes.

EQIA 2016 Survey findings in areas like Finding the Right Fit and Professional Development will help us gain a greater understanding of how culture affects career success. We’ll also get a chance to put our Design Culture ideas into action every day through the execution of related #EQxDActions.

If you are interested in participating or contributing to Equity by Design? Please check the blog and calendar or sign up to volunteer.

SAVE THE DATE! #EQXDHack17 @ A'17 in Orlando

EQxDHackathon: Architecture And the Era of Connections 4/26/17 @ A'17 (aka. AIA National Convention) in Orlando, FL  1-5pm

If you are attending A'17 in Orlando 4/26-4/29, please be sure to join us for the 3rd installment of the much talked about and game-changing workshop at the Conference on Architecture (Formerly known as - AIA National Convention). 

When you register, please pick WE304 as a pre-convention workshop and note that our program is held on WEDNESDAY 4/26/17 from 1-5pm which is the day before the A'17 starts.

EQxDHack17 Scholarships will be available this year for Students, Emerging Professionals, and Newly Licensed Architects! Stay Tuned for How to Register!

#EQxDM3 Behind the Scenes: Hackathon - Mentorship Re-designed

With less than a week to AIASF's 4th Symposium — Equity by Design: Metrics, Meaning & Matrices, EQxD Blog will be featuring "behind the scenes" interviews with the facilitators of the Symposium Break Out Sessions for Career Dynamics and Pinch Points. Prairna Gupta-Garg, AIA shares her insights on working with the Thought Leaders to shape this Career Dynamics session.

Hackathon - Mentorship Re-designed


Mentoring is important for professional growth at any career stage, from learning the ropes to navigating choices later on. Unfortunately, mentorship can reinforce inequity as mentors and mentees are often drawn to people of similar ethnicity, race, and gender. Mentorship can also be too limited in scope, restricted to advice when the mentor can be most powerful as champion or sponsor, advocating for the mentee when promotion or hiring decisions are made. In this session we will ‘redesign mentorship’ through hands-on exercises and small group discussions. Together we will create a tool to provide effective professional development for everyone.

Thought Leaders and Facilitator:

Prairna Gupta-Garg, AIA — Facilitator

Prairna Gupta-Garg, AIA — Facilitator

Why were you interested in being a facilitator?

I am passionate about the mission of the organization and feel that many of us talk about the issues facing our professions but very few actually take the necessary action. Being an action-oriented person, I saw the role of the facilitator not only as a thought leader, but that of an action leader — transforming intangible thoughts to tangible action items that can be adopted by the community as a solution to the problem.

How have the Equity pinch points and/or dynamics informed your session? 

Our group discussed the pinch point of ‘paying your dues’ and its relationship to a ‘re-designed mentorship’. How do you train people but also give them a realistic sense of where they are now (important to mentors), and where they are going (important to mentees) in developing a successful tool providing professional development for everyone irrespective of their gender, race and/or experience. 

Are there any a-ha’s that emerged from the process of working with your team?

The biggest ‘a-ha’ that emerged from working with my team was the concept of ‘sponsorship’ i.e. having someone within your company who champions you and your growth when promotion decisions are being made; and how it is different than traditional mentorship.


Check out all the #EQxDM3 Break-Out Sessions Here

AIASF Equity by Design Symposium Sponsors

Special thanks to our amazing sponsors for their dedication and support. We look forward to seeing you there!

#EQxDM3 Behind the Scenes: Graphing the Work-Life Equation

With a few short weeks until AIASF's 4th Symposium — Equity by Design: Metrics, Meaning & Matrices, EQxD Blog will be featuring "behind the scenes" interviews with the facilitators of the Symposium Break Out Sessions for Career Dynamics and Pinch Points. Patricia Hansen, Associate AIA shares her insights on working with the Thought Leaders to shape this Career Dynamics session.

Graphing the Work-Life Equation: Different Approaches to Success


From balance to flexibility to integration, there are many ways of conceptualizing the relationship between work and our personal lives. How do we develop successful, personalized strategies for making it work? Session leaders will share how they’ve set goals for balance, flexibility, or integration, and the strategies they’ve adopted as a result. Then participants will have an opportunity to reflect on their own approach to the work/life equation and discuss how it has (or has not) worked for them. Working together, participants will map these approaches to work/life, highlighting connections between individual goals, personal and professional context, and long-term success.

Thought Leaders and Facilitator:

Patricia Hansen, Associate AIA — Facilitator

Patricia Hansen, Associate AIA — Facilitator

Why were you interested in being a facilitator? 

I am very supportive of the effort to create more equity in the workplace and see it as a crusade that I want to help drive. I had just joined EQxD prior to becoming a facilitator and it seemed like an excellent way to jump into the movement with both feet. Additionally, I am new to the profession and saw it as a great opportunity to network with amazing individuals who care about some of the same issues.  


How have the Equity pinch points and/or dynamics informed your session?

Our session is all about the difficulty of integrating personal and professional life. This relationship is dramatically affected by crucial pinch points throughout one’s career and is definitely a major issue for most workers. Whether it is getting married, starting a family, caring for parents, volunteering, or any other personal interest our session recognizes the importance of allowing time for these activities in order for employees to lead an engaged, happy life. Not allowing for this flexibility causes burnout and encourages individuals to leave the industry.

Are there any a-ha’s that emerged from the process of working with your team?

One of the concepts that we arrived at early on in our discussions was that there is no such thing as Work/Life BALANCE. The interchange between professional and personal life is messy, unpredictable, and overlapping. It certainly is not some kind of perfectly balanced teeter-totter with work on one side and the rest of life on the other. Living a multifaceted life necessitates a constant give and take between work and everything else that is going on. In the end, it becomes much more about flexibility and integration of the different parts of life rather than a balance. This subtle distinction between work/life balance and work/life integration really surprised me initially because people so often use the terms interchangeably. The slight differences really affect one’s perception on the issue.

Check out all the #EQxDM3 Break-Out Sessions Here

AIASF Equity by Design Symposium Sponsors

Special thanks to our amazing sponsors for their dedication and support. We look forward to seeing you there!

EQxD Get Real: Search until you find your Yes!

by LaShae Ferguson

What happens when you graduate and you think you'll be designing buildings but you're not? What happens when you see all the cool kids doing amazing things on all the new technologies and you feel like a dinosaur? When you get the rare privilege of helping out on an amazing presentation but for the most part you do a lot of shop drawing reviews? Or being told you might not be ready to be on a team? The main challenge I faced was wanting to learn more, but being told that I should be happy where I am. Well, I wasn’t. I decided to work for small firms, mid-sized and large firms, and I was able to expand my network, find mentors and work on amazing projects. But this didn’t happen overnight - it took over 15 years. (Enjoy the journey right?) The first few years I was enrolled in college, taking classes at night and weekends and working during the day.

It was insane and a process of saving money, learning new skills, searching for my tribe and looking under every nook and cranny for opportunities that provided the space for growth. I sought out the person who helped me to get a scholarship and took her to lunch, sent congratulatory notes to firms whose work I admired and read the employment section of the newspaper every week. The opportunity for growth was a huge driving force but what exactly did I want to do?

For starters, I wanted to see how drawings translated in the field, meet with clients, learn how to conduct sales calls, and see a project from start to finish. I searched until I found a company that allowed me to do just that. And when a project came through the door that I wanted in on, I made it known, 'hey that looks like an awesome project, I want in on it!’ But it wasn’t a cake walk at all. Real talk: I had colleagues rail on me and toss drawings at me. But every single time I stood up for myself, unapologetically. When I felt that some personalities were too extreme, I actively searched out those who were more action oriented versus ego oriented. Take it how you will.

I chose to advance myself further by being an owner, because of my desire to be creative, make a living and have a life. It was scary, like jumping off a cliff without a parachute, but I saw no other way. I knew I wanted to be married and have children and from what I saw, unless you knew the right people and all the right things, returning to work after maternity leave might be questionable. So I decided that instead of working for firms,  I would partner with them. I cold called local small companies, kept in touch with people I worked with and partnered with other designers and contractors. I learned as much as I could in the field and a lot about how to deal with personalities, problem solving and business. I read a lot of amazing biographies and business books that extend beyond my profession.

And I understand, entrepreneurship is not for everyone, it can be scary, but here are a few general takeaways:

  1. Ask yourself, what is it I’m trying to do? Small projects, big projects? Am I good with presentations, production, details, technology, people?

  2. Do I see myself as a principal, vice president, owner?

  3. What are my strong points and areas thatwhere I need work on?

  4. Seek out those whose opinions you value and who will be 100% real with you.

  5. Reach out to someone that you admire and ask them out for coffee, make the connection and keep in touch.

  6. Build your network on social platforms like Twitter and LinkedIn and write sincere recommendations for those you know.  

  7. Go to local networking events.

  8. Ask lots of questions.

  9. Save your money.

  10. Become passionate about a cause and when and if you are able - volunteer.

  11. Become a board member.

  12. Build your tribe.

  13. Be curious, vocal and persistent.

  14. Understand that your path may be different from others, advancement (nor life) is not linear.

If you've gotten this far, to finish school, to work for a firm, you put in 80% right if someone tells you no, you can't, you're not ready, you pick yourself up and search until you find your yes.

About LaShae Ferguson @lashae_f

LaShae A. Ferguson, Assoc. AIA, Owner of L.A. Design Collective, LLC, An Architectural Design & Drawing Co., and graduate of the University of the District of Columbia. LaShae has co-managed design-construction projects worth over $8 million total. When not working, she enjoys spending time with her family, cooking and traveling.




EQxD Get Real - To read more about challenges and resilience from diverse viewpoints, go here.

In a similar spirit of spontaneity of the Archimom's Everyday Moments of Truth blog series, we are excited to bring you EQxD Get Real: True stories of Challenges and Resilience from diverse perspectives of architects and designers. Each day we will feature the stories of each person's challenges in the profession and what they learned from those experiences to inspire action for equitable practice in architecture. 


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