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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?

Call for Thought Leaders #EQxDM3 Symposium 10/29

Thought Leader (noun) - one whose views on a subject are taken to be influential and impactful.


AIASF Equity by Design Committee invites you to contribute as a Thought Leader for the 2016 Symposium EQUITY BY DESIGN: METRICS, MEANING AND MATRICES on Saturday, October 29, 2016 from 9am - 4:30pm at the San Francisco Art Institute.

Photo by Daniel Wang

Photo by Daniel Wang

Starting Monday, June 6th we will be seeking Thought Leaders to participate in the Symposium sessions which range from panel discussions of key findings from the Equity in Architecture survey to interactive break-out sessions geared toward action-oriented outcomes. We are looking for dynamic, collaborative, articulate thinkers with a unique perspective on the spectrum of topics involved with achieving equitable practice. Once selected, we will collaborate with thought leaders on developing topic sessions that are highly engaging in discussion and inspiring in actionable outcomes.  


Why Equity in Architecture Matters

Equity is the ethos of our work. It is the ability to recognize difference and provide fair and just access to opportunities. Equity also speaks to a collective ownership, vested interest and knowledge of our worth. Equitable practice promotes the recruitment and retention of the most diverse talent while building stronger, successful, sustainable practices. The equitable representation of professionals allows us to better represent the people we are meant to serve. Equity is for everyone - architects, design collaborators, clients, and our communities.



This year’s Symposium theme, EQUITY BY DESIGN: METRICS, MEANING AND MATRICES builds upon the last five years of advocacy and sets an exciting path  for the next chapter of our journey towards equity in architecture.

We must leverage metrics to make any substantial progress towards changing the ratios in our profession. We seek meaning at many levels: in the discovery of significance in one’s career, in the personal connections we make with others, and in our own reflection upon research findings that can positively transform workplace culture. We create matrices to inspire a new mindset for advocacy and action. These generative networks of connections enable us to become originators of new approaches and constructs.

At the Symposium we will present the early findings of the 2016 Equity in Architecture Survey through a series of panel discussions. Interspersed among these sessions, we have designed a series of diverse and interactive break-out workshops that encourage participants to engage in meaningful dialogue about their career experiences. Most importantly, we will experience the power and impact of action by learning and applying matrices as individuals, firms and in our professional networks.



Our research has shown that, regardless of age or level of experience, both men’s and women’s perspectives on their careers are shaped by ways in which individuals and firms, address several key issues, or career dynamics. Each of these career dynamics has the potential to cause unwelcome professional and personal tension. On the other hand, awareness and discussion of each of these career dynamics can begin to meet individual needs and build diverse firms where talented individuals love to work.

Metrics:  Career Dynamics

In the Metrics Presentation, the EQxD survey team will reveal and discuss our research on the following Career Dynamic

FINDING THE RIGHT FIT - What is “job-person fit,” or a successful match between an individual and a firm, and how do we recognize it when we see it? What strategies can individuals employ to assess personal priorities, and identify working environments where they will thrive?  How can firms and individuals work together to create equitable studio culture? 

BURNOUT/ENGAGEMENT -. What are burnout and engagement, and how are they related? Why is promoting engagement important to a firm’s bottom line? Who is particularly vulnerable to burnout, and what are the warning signs? What are firms doing successfully to foster engagement and avoid burnout?

PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT - What are the most effective ways that firms are preparing employees for career success? What role do mentorship and sponsorship play in promoting equity in the workplace? How do individuals assess their strengths  and set goals for their futures, and are there gendered differences in self-assessment?

WORK-LIFE INTEGRATION - Why are many professionals more likely to let their personal health and relationships suffer while also suppressing their other professional passions? What can firms and individuals do differently to encourage a thriving integration among professional practice, wellness and meaningful work?

BEYOND ARCHITECTURE - How common is it to take an extended leave, sabbatical, or extended time away from a job in architecture? Why do people leave architecture, and what do they go on to do after leaving the field? What measures can firms take to smooth transitions back into architectural practice for those who would like to re-enter the field?

Metrics: Panel Discussion

Following the Career Dynamics Metrics Presentation, we are seeking panelists to discuss the  findings by addressing themes from the presentation. For this panel, we seek Thought Leaders with general knowledge of Career Dynamics topic areas mentioned above, as well as unique perspectives on one, or several of the Career Dynamics.

Metrics & Meaning: Break-Out Sessions

Following the morning Metrics sessions, conference attendees will select one of four Break-Out Sessions. Each of these sessions focus on a topic related to the Career Dynamics. Potential formats for these sessions are described below. Each session will be developed and led by two Thought Leaders with the assistance of a facilitator from Equity by Design.


Photo by Daniel Wang

Photo by Daniel Wang

In addition to broad career dynamics, there are a number of professional and personal milestones that can act as career pinch points. These milestones have the tendency to become roadblocks that hold have disproportionately negative impacts on women’s and minorities’ careers. In this section, we will explore key career pinch points, as well as strategies for fostering equity by increasing both men and women’s success in negotiating them.

Metrics: Career Pinch Points

In the afternoon Metrics Presentation, the EQxD survey team will reveal and discuss our research on the following Career Pinch Points:

STUDIO/ACADEMIA - Is architectural education adequately preparing aspiring architects for their careers? What knowledge areas and skill sets aren’t being sufficiently addressed in school? How can schools set precedents for equitable studio culture?

PAYING DUES - Why are aspiring architects more likely to leave the field within their first few years of experience than at any other time in their careers? What can firms and individuals do to increase engagement and long-term commitment to the profession amongst young designers?

LICENSURE - What is the value of licensure? Why are men more likely than women to pursue an architectural license? What can firms do to encourage employees to become licensed?

CAREGIVING - Are women and minorities more likely to suffer negative career impacts related to their caregiving responsibilities? What are firms doing successfully to support working caregivers?

GLASS CEILING - Why, when the talent pipeline is more diverse than ever before, do white men continue to hold the majority of firm, design, and thought leadership positions within the industry? Why is there still a gender pay gap within architecture, and what can we do to address it? What can individuals, firms, and institutions do to promote the advancement of the industry’s best talent?

Metrics: Panel Discussion

Following the Career Pinch Points Metrics Presentation, we are seeking panelists to discuss the  findings by addressing themes from the presentation. For this panel, we seek Thought Leaders with general knowledge of Career Pinch Points topic areas mentioned above, as well as unique perspectives on one, or several of the Career Pinch Points.


Metrics & Meaning: Break-Out Sessions

Following the afternoon metrics sessions, conference attendees will select one of four Break-Out Sessions. Each of these sessions focus on a topic related to a Career Pinch Point. Potential formats for these sessions are described below. Each session will be developed and led by two Thought Leaders with the assistance of a facilitator from Equity by Design.


All sessions will be developed collaboratively with other Thought Leaders, session facilitators, and Symposium organizers. Once you are selected as a Thought Leader you will be paired with a facilitator and other Thought Leaders to develop a session that fits within a particular topic category.

General sessions will have a panel discussion format. Break-out sessions will fit one of the following typologies:

THINK TANK - Focus on design-thinking exercises to develop creative solutions and new ideas to solve topic-specific problems. Very interactive***

STORYTELLING - Sharing stories and experiences on topic-related theme. Storytellers can be a mix of Thought Leaders and session participants. Moderately Interactive***

EQUITABLE PRACTICE IN ACTION - Presentation of case studies in practice, including lessons learned, followed by feedback discussion. Moderately Interactive***

SKILL-SHARE - Learning-focused skill-building clinic, potentially with a role-playing component. (Examples - Negotiation, Dealing w/ Bias or Interruptions, or other challenging  scenarios.)  Moderatelyl Interactive***

*** The interactivity of various session types can be adjusted depending on the other sessions offered. For example, if the Skill-Share is more active it can be paired with a more static Equitable Practice in Action session.


To be considered as an EQUITY BY DESIGN 2016 Thought Leader, you must submit your application to the AIASF by June 24, 2016

If accepted as a Thought Leader for EQUITY BY DESIGN 2016 you will agree to adhere to the following milestone deadlines for session development and attend at least 4 preparation meetings, preferably in person.


Call for Thought Leaders Deadline: June 24, 2016

Thought Leaders selected and notified: July 15, 2016

Break-out Session proposed topic options (3) due: August 15, 2016

Collaboration w/ Facilitator & Other Thought Leaders for brief descriptions of 3 potential session designs including subject focus and format.

Metrics Panel Discussions initial meetings: Early August

Final Break-Out Session Brief due: Aug 25, 2016

Brief session description for conference schedule.

Preparation Meeting/Call I: Early September

Content development (outline of each session) and practice, required for every session.

Technical/spatial/furniture/toolkit (markers, flip charts, voting dots, etc.) requirements.

 Preparation Meeting/Call II: Late September

Content development (outline and activities) and practice, required for every session.

Preparation Meeting/Call III: Early October

Content development (outline, time duration, leaders) and practice, required for every session






  1. Visit (this link is case sensitive) to access the presentation submission site.

  2. Create a new account with the user name and password of your choice.

  3. Click the CREATE NEW button at the bottom of the Form Thought Leader page to begin your submission.

  4. Identify a primary contact person and email address for your entry.

  5. Click NEXT or the SUBMISSION tab to move to the presentation segment of your submission. Complete all required fields and click SAVE.

  6. You are still able to review and edit submission at this time. Be sure to click the FINALIZE button when you are finished editing your presentation, or your session will not be reviewed. 

  7. You may click SAVE during any part of the submission process and return to your submission at a later time. You will need your user name and password from step 2 to return to your account and continue.

  8. Once you have submitted your application, no additional changes can be made, so please review all information carefully prior to submission. 



Is there compensation for Thought Leaders?

Selected Thought Leaders will be offered free conference registration for their participation. 

There will be no honorarium compensation or travel/hotel expenses reimbursed for Selected Thought Leaders.

What happens after Thought Leaders are selected? 

Once selected, Thought Leaders will be coordinated by a facilitator on finalizing session topic, format and content. Participation and preparation are important to the success and impact of the session. Please think carefully about your time and availability to contribute to this unique and rewarding experience.  



If you have any questions regarding the Symposium, please contact Julia Mandell, EQxD Symposium Chair, by calling + 1 281 687 2582 or by sending an email to  

If you have any questions regarding technical support for submitting your application for Thought Leaders, please contact

Courtesy of Tanmay Vora

Courtesy of Tanmay Vora

"Unpack it, Before you Hack it." WE315 EQxD Hackathon 5/18

By Rosa T. Sheng, AIA

In the 2 weeks prior to the EQxD Hackathon Workshop at AIA National Convention, we have compiled a flipped classroom reading list for attendees. Each panelist has provided a list of Hackathon resources to better prepare everyone for the intense 4 hour workshop journey. And even if you are not able to attend the Hackathon, (and why not????) you will be able to gain a lot of worthwhile and inspiring resources from the curated list below to apply to any hacking you do outside the workshop.

Our time together is brief. So let’s make the most of it. Typically hackathons last 2 -3 days. In our case, the program only lasts 4 hours. In order to help bridge the ramp up time, we recommend reading prior to the event, to get into the innovation mindset. We ask that you pick 3 resources to "unpack" prior to the big day.

Phillip Bernstein, FAIA - VP Strategic Industry Relations at Autodesk

Phillip G. Bernstein is a Vice President at Autodesk, a leading provider of digital design and engineering software, where he leads Strategic Industry Relations and is responsible for setting the company’s future vision and strategy for technology as well as cultivating and sustaining the firm's relationships with strategic industry leaders. An experienced architect, Phil teaches Professional Practice at the Yale School of Architecture. He is co-editor of Building (In) The Future: Recasting Labor in Architecture.

Phil's Resources


Robert Yuen, CEO & Co-Founder at Section Cut

Robert Yuen is the Co-founder and CEO of Section Cut. Trained as an architect, Robert’s design practice has developed over the past 6 years into a dual focus on Architectural services and recently in entrepreneurship. Robert is currently focused on Section Cut, a web-based platform committed to empowering designers and demystifying design culture to the public. Section Cut is a crowd-sourced, finely curated collection of design resources and beautifully designed objects with an educational agenda.

Robert Yuen


Yasmine Mustafa, CEO at Roar for Good

Yasmine Mustafa is passionate about leveraging technology for good. She’s the CEO and co-founder of ROAR for Good, a social impact company aimed at empowering women to live their lives boldly and without fearing using fashionable safety jewelry, mobile technology, and education. She’s the co-leader of Girl Develop It Philadelphia, an international organization aimed at lessening the gender gap in technology by providing low-cost web development classes for women.

Yasmine's Resources


Rosa Sheng, AIA LEED AP BD+C - Senior Associate at Bohlin Cywinski Jackson

Rosa is an architect and Senior Associate at Bohlin Cywinski Jackson with 20 years experience. Rosa has led a variety of award winning and acclaimed design projects. Rosa serves as an AIA San Francisco Board Treasurer, the Founding Chair for AIASF Equity by Design and creator of the Equity by Design Symposium 2014. Rosa has traveled nationally to present the findings of the 2014 Equity in Architecture Survey; featured in the Wall Street Journal, Architect Magazine and a TEDxPhiladelphia talk.

Rosa's Resources


Join us for the EQxD Hackathon - WE315 May 18, 1-5pm (Happy Hour Included)


Join us for the EQxD Happy Hour Only - May 18, 5:30-7:30pm 



We greatly appreciate our EQxD Hackathon and Happy Hour sponsors for their generous support!

NOMA RISE 2015 - Social Justice by Design

by Rosa Sheng, AIA, LEED AP BD+C


This past Friday, I was invited by the National Organization of Minority Architects (NOMA) to deliver the opening Keynote at NOMA RISE 2015 - Social Justice by Design -  the 43rd Annual International Conference was hosted by the NOMA Louisiana Chapter in New Orleans (aka NOLA).  "While the design profession has seen a shift towards a more socially-conscious practice in recent years, NOMA has always been an organization centered around community engagement and social justice through the design process. With that in mind, this year, we are challenging our members and partners to rise in support of diversity in the profession and design justice in our communities." 

I was greeted with a warm southern welcome by the host chapter NOMA Louisiana at their reception on Thursday night. There were many friendly familiar faces in the room - the twitterati who I have engaged in meaningful "virtual" conversation, but have only met in person the first time that evening. During my visit, I also got to enjoy some of the sites, sounds and food of The Big Easy during my "30 hour" adventure near the French Quarter.

On Friday morning, I was honored to share the work of Equity by Design for the keynote session. "We are the Champions! Citizen Architect" from last week's #Architalks blog challenge served as a point of inspiration and call to action for all attendees. Kevin Holland, NOMA National President 2015-2016, gave a powerful opening that emphasized the need for action beyond discourse to improve the dire social landscape of our communities. He cited a story of racial profiling and the unjust arrest of Lyle Dotson that happened during an architecture tour of the French Quarter with a group of Ball State University architecture students and two faculty members.  Most of us are privileged that we would never need to worry about being arrested while walking through the French Quarter alone. It begs a deeper conversation about racism and social justice in our society.

The giant whale of inequity and social injustice is ominous. Divided, the task seems daunting to overcome these challenges. In order to make progress, we need to band together and share the responsibility of moving the needle. Equity is Everyone's issue on many different levels and it is all tied together; where we live, how we live, the quality of public vs. private spaces, who gets access and who is the advocate for designing these places. In order to inspire the next generation, we need to share our stories, our design work, our impact in our communities by communicating, documenting, recognizing, participating and advocating. We have compiled a Storify recap of the amazing topics, speakers, projects (like Project Pipeline), and people that make NOMA the phenomenal organization it is today. I shared the tools that we have used to spread the Equity in Architecture findings that has launched a parallel movement for equitable practice and talent retention. I encourage everyone to join twitter, LInked In, etc so that we can continue to engage in conversation and inspire the future generations of leaders that will come.

According to the US Census, by 2045, the minority population will become the majority. And in 2023, the student population will have reached this tipping point. How will we reframe our profession to engage and retain talent that will serve the transition of population and community demographics. Cultural awareness, competence and equitable practice will be important skills to learn; it is critical that we leverage this opportunity to convey the value of design in creating meaningful, influential and just environments where we live.


This week at AIASF, don't miss our last EQxD "U" Workshop of the year!


EQxD "U" Workshop 4 ! Architecture AND...Exploring Meaning & Influence by way of Multidisciplinary Practice.

Thursday, October 22, 2015 from 6pm - 8:30pm @AIASF 130 Sutter St, San Francisco

We will explore alternate models of practice that expand the avenues of influence for architects. More than 50% of all respondents to the 2014 Equity in Architecture Survey stated that they were dissatisfied with their current job situation. A large number responded that they were interested in alternative career paths. Rather than leave architecture behind completely - and have the profession lose ever more talent to other fields - how we can cultivate expansive multidisciplinary practices that are innovative, exploratory, and meaningful? 

The workshop will feature four professionals who have taken their work beyond the traditional boundaries of the field. After a review of key survey findings on the topic we will hear from the panelists about their paths, entrepreneurial thinking, and lessons learned in a question and answer session. This will be followed by design thinking exercises to guide us in thinking freely and widely about our career futures and the new kinds of practices we can create. Gain the courage and knowledge to turn your interests and ideas into a new work reality at our workshop!

10/22/15 Architecture AND… Workshop Agenda
Networking & Refreshments 6pm - 6:15pm
Introductions/Welcome 6:15 - 6:25pm
Panel Discussion 6:25 - 7:15pm
Break/Transition 7:15 - 7:20pm
Design Thinking Exercises 7:20 - 8:10pm
Conclusions 8:10 - 8:30pm

Equity in Architecture Survey 2014: Final Report

May 14, 2015 San Francisco - The AIA San Francisco Equity by Design committee is pleased to announce the release the Equity in Architecture 2014 Survey Report. The report is available for viewing online immediately and a published version will be available later this year. We have deep gratitude for the generosity of sponsors and equity partners who have supported this important initiative.

While this is a broad overview "road map" of the analysis, there is potential for interpretation and further analysis. Nevertheless, the Equity in Architecture Survey 2014 Report is an effective means to start a much needed conversation. There will inevitably be more questions than answers to understand the findings. Please share this information with your colleagues, firms, alumni networks, and AIA Chapters. 

The research portion of the Missing 32% Project was envisioned as an endeavor with multiple stages, starting locally with the Bay Area, then expanding to the national scale with the ultimate goal of informing the global conversation on the issue of Equity in Architecture. Phase 1 of the project, a 90+ question survey conducted via Survey Monkey in February thru March 2014, explores the workplace participation and career aspirations of 2,289 participants with architectural degrees and experience in architectural practice within the United States. 

The disparity between male and female representation within the profession and limited leadership opportunities have been well documented and are a growing concern. Recognizing a paucity of similar research and documentation of best practices within the United States, Equity by Design’s mission is to supplement this conversation with more targeted information about our local and national community of practitioners.

Equity by Design: The Missing 32% Project

Equity by Design is a call to action for both women and men to realize the goal of equitable practice, advance architecture, sustain the profession and communicate the value of design to society. Our mission is to understand the pinch points and promote the strategic execution of best practices in the recruitment, retention, and promotion of our profession's best talent at every level of architectural practice.

Equity by Design is a committee of AIA San Francisco. The group is made up of a diverse cross section of the industry: participants include both men and women; new graduates and seasoned industry professionals; architects, designers, industry consultants, and those working in allied fields; those without children, parents who have continued to work full time in traditional practice and those who have devised alternative situations to accommodate the demands of raising a family. The group has dual aims. First, we seek to forge strong personal and professional ties amongst like minded individuals. Second, we aim to leverage these connections to achieve progress towards more equitable and sustainable practice across the field.

Defining Success: Early Results - Equity in Architecture Survey '14

Survey Says:

The Missing 32% Project launched the first Equity in Architecture Survey from February thru March 2014 as part of a multi-year research study to promote discussion and inspire change within the profession.  Nearly 2,300 respondents from the local and national architectural community contributed to the research effort that has helped to provide a candid look into the status of the profession and the challenges that must be addressed to preserve its value and relevance for future generations.

Infographic Design by Ming Thompson of Atelier Cho Thompson

How do you define success?

Our first Infographic illustrates the overall respondent demographics, including gender and age, as well as a compelling look the topic of what constitutes a successful career. Our preliminary survey finding compares how different groups answered the question "How do you define success in your career today?" Those working in traditional firms, sole practitioners, and architectural graduates in divergent career paths represent the 3 groups.  Out of 16 possible answers asked, all groups (with men and women nearly equal) selected 3 prominent factors over the rest;

  • Work/Life Flexibility
  • Working on projects of personal and professional significance
  • Working with a positive, talented, collaborative team.
  • (Social Impact / Making a difference was a close runner up).

Not surprisingly, architectural sole practitioners valued "Work/Life Flexibility" as the highest factor; while those working in traditional firms and divergent career paths had selected "working with a positive, talented and collaborative team" as their top choice. Some of the remaining answers that were infrequently selected include: positive client relationships, positive project outcomes, earnings commensurate with experience/achievements, job title/status and recognition by the design community. 

These results are based on preliminary findings conducted by our research team from Mills College, with Infographic provided by Atelier Cho Thompson. We look forward to sharing other key outcomes of survey findings at Equity by Design on October 18th. Join us! You can register for the event here.


"How to Eat a Whale" and other 2014 Resolutions

We started this project in July 2013 after The Missing 32% Symposium with rose-colored glass induced euphoria.  Embracing the call to "be the change" is a noble undertaking and it is clear that architectural practice needs to change. But identifying "what" to change and then figuring out "how" to make this happen suddenly became a very daunting proposition; signing up to resolve the gender equity challenges for women in Architectural Practice is nothing short of trying to eat a whale.

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Gender Equity Policy: What we can learn from the Aussies and Brits.

Last week on December 5th, a major breakthrough for gender equity in the profession of architecture was made with the Australian Institute of Architects’ National Council officially approving the organization’s first Gender Equity Policy

The policy establishes ten best practice principles designed to maximize fair and equitable access to opportunities and participation for women within the architecture profession.

The development of the policy follows the Australian Institute’s involvement since 2011 with the Australian Research Council funded Equity and Diversity in the Australian Architecture Profession: Women, Work and Leadership project, which is led by a large collaborative team of eight scholars and five industry partners.

Studies conducted as part of this project have provided qualitative evidence confirming that the participation rate of women in the profession is disproportionately low compared to the number of women graduates in architecture highlighting the specific need to encourage and provide guidelines for the industry to adopt a comprehensive and ethical approach to establishing gender equality across the field.

‘As careers progress, the barriers for women increase, as evidenced by lower numbers in senior positions and higher attrition rates and the need for part time or flexible work hours when juggling career and parenthood affects women most heavily. This policy will go a long way in readdressing these imbalances.’

Paul Berkemeier, President of Australian Institute of Architects

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