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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?

#EQxDM3 Behind the Scenes: ADVOCACY: Define | Discover | Do

With a couple 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. Ellen Fuson, AIA, LEED Green Associate shares her insights on working with the Thought Leaders to shape this Career Dynamics session.

ADVOCACY: Define | Discover | Do


Advocacy can occur at a number of scales, from advocating for ourselves, to fostering environments where everyone can speak up, to working collectively nationally or profession-wide.  In this break-out, session leaders will present case studies that illustrate these different scales of advocacy.  . Through participatory exercises attendees will discover ways to test and implement advocacy at each of these scales. The session will conclude with a conversation about insights gained through the case studies and exercises, leaving participants better equipped to actively advocate in small ways and large.

Thought Leaders and Facilitator:

Ellen Fuson, AIA, LEED Green Associate — Facilitator

Ellen Fuson, AIA, LEED Green Associate — Facilitator

Why were you interested in being a facilitator?

I am interested in being a facilitator because I am passionate about promoting productive, positive, and disruptive dialog about equity in architecture.  As a previous attendee of the symposium, I am aware of how provocative the day can be: filled with innovative thinkers in a format that encourages interaction. This year’s theme — Metrics, Meaning, and Matrices — is right up my ally. I’m very inspired by EQxD’s methodology that data is power.  Because of this approach, EQxD has made visible some of the complex hurdles that are present over the course of a career.  In order to implement change, using metrics empowers us to track progress and find new meaning in transforming the culture of our profession. 

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

Often times, equity starts with advocacy. Advocacy is meaningful on an individual level — negotiating for yourself for a promotion and advocating for additional services on a project are just a couple of examples.  But advocacy goes way beyond the personal and it can also be structural. When recontextualized, it has a role in establishing firm-wide policies that promote equitable practices, thus affecting real change in architecture, and the way we do business.  Being a designer today in the Bay Area is very exciting: thought leaders from a variety of industries and backgrounds are bringing innovative ideas and energy to the area. I look forward to what the future may hold. 

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

Yes! Working with the thought leaders has helped me to think beyond my personal experience with advocacy, and reframe advocacy in terms of the big picture. How can firms play a role in creating a culture that promotes systems of advocacy? How can advocacy be a tool on an industry level to promote equity? The thought leaders come from a variety of backgrounds, which help to challenge traditional modes of exploration. Whenever we speak, I learn something new or see advocacy from a different angle. 


AIASF Equity by Design Symposium Sponsors

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

Recap: EQxD "U" Workshop - Negotiation is your Power Tool

Our 3rd workshop in the EQxD "U" series: Negotiation is your Power Tool was a stimulating conversation about negotiation with our diverse panelists: A contractor, a client, an architect, and an HR director. Some of them confessed to never negotiating for high salaries earlier on in their careers. View our storify recap to enjoy the highlights from the discussion.



Hungry for more Knowledge, Discussion and Action? Join us for the best and last EQxD "U" Workshop #4 on Thursday, October 22nd at 6-8:30pm for "Architecture And...Expanding our influence through multidisciplinary practices". 

Developing a diverse practice that straddles several related fields can be good idea from both a business and creative standpoint. How can a multidisciplinary practice broaden our creative thinking when times are good and help protect against a volatile building market when times are bad? What does the Architecture firm look like 20 years from now and what are potentially the evolution of services that we can provide that reinforces the Value of Design? What kinds of divergent/convergent work make sense for architecture firms to take on that will increase resiliency and relevance into the future?

EQxD “U” Workshop 3 - Negotiation is Your Power Tool - Meet the Panelists!

by Julia Mandell, 

We are excited to bring you the 3rd of 4 EQxD “U” Workshops - Negotiation is Your Power Tool. August 13th, 2015 @AIASF 130 Sutter St, San Francisco 6pm - 8:30pm

At this interactive workshop we will discuss and learn strategies for achieving success in various negotiations from salary discussions to contracts. According the the 2014 Equity in Architecture Survey, negotiation skills are sorely lacking in our profession. The survey found that less than 35% of all respondents, regardless of gender, negotiated their current salaries. Those who had negotiated salary increases experienced similar rates of self-reported success, and successful negotiators of both genders made more money on average than their non-negotiating counterparts. While this is encouraging data, successful negotiation is a well-honed skill that requires a deep understanding of all the potential factors that influence positive outcomes.

The session will feature 4 professionals from architecture, construction, planning, and human resources who excel at negotiation in their various roles. Following a summary of key survey findings on negotiation and salary, we will engage the panelists in a question and answer session before participating in role-playing activities to strengthen our negotiation skills. Start refining your knowledge and developing your skills at our workshop.

8/13 Negotiation 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
Negotiation Role Play 7:20 - 8:10pm
Conclusions 8:10 - 8:30pm


Laurie Dreyer

Laurie Dreyer
Director of Human Resources, Harris & Associates 

Laurie brings to Harris over 32 years of experience in HR leadership positions for such companies as Ratcliff Architects, Gensler, Psomas and Anshen+Allen/Stantec. Laurie has found her career calling as a human resources specialist and teacher. Her proudest moments are the times she’s able to help, teach or support someone. And she does all of those often at Harris— teaching classes, developing employee learning programs and enhancing recruitment efforts to build the best teams.She has also taught at the AIA, AEBL, Senior Executives Institute of ACEC, and Design Leadership events. Laurie has also been a popular presenter at several negotiation workshops at past years' AIASF The Missing 32% and Equity by Design Symposia.

Julia Laue

Julia Laue AIA, LEED AP
Principal Architect & Manager, Building Design and Construction, San Francisco Public Works, City and County of San Francisco 

As Principal Architect and Manager for Building, Design and Construction Julia’s focus is on excellence in Project Delivery and Design for the City's great civic projects.   She oversees 155+ architects, landscape architects and construction managers and employs many private architecture and engineering firms throughout the City. Having come from the private sector, for the last 2+ years she has been working towards the establishment of a culture of excellence within this office. Prior to her current position at the City of San Francisco she was Project Director and an Associate Partner at NC2 Studio and Vice President and Senior Project Manager at SB Architects.

Marc Pfenninger

Marc Pfenninger, AIA, LEED AP
Principal, San Francisco, STUDIOS Architecture

Marc joined STUDIOS’ San Francisco office in 1999. During his tenure, he has led civic, institutional, and commercial projects for education, high-tech, law, and other client types. With his in-depth knowledge of the construction industry and solid understanding of technical implementation and field administration, Marc is adept at managing and designing technically complex projects. Most recently, Marc was a key project architect for the retrofit and renovation of the California Memorial Stadium at UC Berkeley, which includes 145,000 sf of new training and development facilities, seismic and program upgrades to the existing structure, and a new press box. He has also served as project designer for several high technology office and campus projects, including Exactly Vertical, Excite@Home, Silicon Graphics, and SoftNet.

Alec Banta 
Senior Project Manager, McCarthy Building Companies

Alec has been working with McCarthy for over 11 years, overseeing a number of high profile projects in Silicon Valley and the Sacramento Valley regions. An expert in design-build, Alec recently completed the Capital Improvement Project II for the College of San Mateo and the fast-track Housing and Healthcare Facility in Stockton. A natural communicator, Alec is a skilled consensus builder capable of managing large, complex teams. Alec is currently serving as the senior project manager for the new parking garage at Westfield Valley Fair in San Jose. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Construction Management from California State University, Chico.

Negotiation Flipped Classroom

(Strategies and Resources to read before you attend):


EQxD Workshop 3 - Negotiation is your Power Tool

Based on our survey findings, less than 35% of all respondents negotiated their salaries after receiving an unsatisfactory offer. How can we become more effective negotiators for ourselves, our firms, and for the architectural profession-at-large?

There are many situations and types of negotiation — and ultimately it breaks down to communication styles and the choices we make when we engage in these situations. In this workshop, you will learn HOW to negotiate by understanding the key differences between key negotiation mindsets and then practicing

Join us Thursday, August 13th, 6pm-8:30pm for the most anticipated workshop of the EQxD series. We expect to sell out for this event, so register early. This session will feature a panel of negotiation experts from the AEC community followed by key strategies. Then, you will engage in role play scenarios of real life situations to practice effective outcomes for your next performance review, compensation discussion, contracts with your clients, and essential strategies to stand up to competitive types.

In April, AIA YAF Connection featuring Equity by Design topics including an article on negotiation strategies. A great resource to review prior to the workshop or a reference tool if you can't join us.

Licensure -Just Do It!

by Sharon Portnoy

Sharon Portnoy is a licensed architect in California and New York and is currently a Principal Consultant at Breuer Consulting Group, which specializes in executive search for the built environment.

To be honest, I never paid much attention to the “debate” about licensure in Architecture. It’s been in the air since, well, forever, and I never gave it much thought for several reasons. For me, licensure seemed the logical next step after years of rigorous training in school and “paying my dues” as an intern. Perhaps because I was an English major in college before going on to get my M.Arch., I craved the validation of being an Architect with a capital “A”. But beyond my personal experience, we are a profession that has, first and foremost, an obligation to ensure public comfort and safety. No matter how visionary and innovative our buildings are, people need to get out of them safely if there’s a fire. Sophisticated design and the poetic use of materials mean nothing if the building is not universally accessible. And as compelling as that transparent façade looks in the rendering, if heat gain and shear strength aren’t figured into the equation, a hot summer day or earthquake could make the spaces beyond it uncomfortable at best, dangerous at worst.

Architects complain a lot about how little recognition and respect we get from the public. In my mind, what licensure says to the world is that we don’t just draw pretty pictures. We are well-versed and competent in the business of making buildings that are safe, accessible and efficient. I would not go to a doctor who hasn’t passed her medical boards; why would a client choose an architect who hasn’t displayed at least basic competence in areas of life safety, accessibility, and professional practice?

Objections? Sure. These are the ones I hear often

1. The exam says nothing about your skill as a designer.
True. But it tests your fluency with the codes and standards that you need to internalize to become a good designer. Just as a grammar test can’t predict whether you’ll be the next William Faulkner or Toni Morrison, you really should know how to construct a sentence before you sit down to write a novel.

2. It’s hard! 
Yes. Yes it is. And it should be. Maybe the public doesn’t understand or appreciate the rigors of our profession, but we must. We need a basic understanding of structural and mechanical engineering, acoustics, resilience, ergonomics, accessibility, environmental impacts, economic outcomes, etc. so that we can collaborate with contractors and consultants and be effective leaders on project teams. We are the ultimate generalists and connecting all the dots is one of our greatest strengths. But doing so requires basic knowledge in a variety of areas, and our competence should be assessed and recognized. So yes, it’s hard, but we work in a challenging profession and assume a lot of responsibility. In my mind, licensure is a badge of honor that says an architect respects, values and is equal to the challenges and responsibilities that come with the title “Architect.”

3. It's time consuming!
Yup. And it doesn’t get any less time consuming the longer you wait. In fact, studying becomes more time-consuming, as the load calculations and force diagrams you learned in your Structures class in school fade further into the recesses of your memory. What’s more, life itself has a habit of becoming more time consuming as the years pass, so if you are relatively young and unencumbered by family responsibilities in your first few years out of school, get it over with! And if, by chance, you are considering licensure later in your career and are mired in mid-life responsibilities, take comfort in the fact that the exam can be taken section by section these days, and therefore broken into manageable bites.

4. It’s expensive.
Again, I can’t argue with this. Although the research suggests that licensed architects do have a financial advantage over unlicensed architects, one that grows over time, this is by no means a guarantee. But I can offer a few words of encouragement on this front. First, ask your employer to help. Many firms offer incentives for licensure, whether it’s paid time off for study time, help defraying exam costs, or a financial bonus upon achieving licensure. Make sure you know what your employer offers and take advantage of it! If your employer doesn’t have a program in place, ask them to start one. There are a host of arguments supporting the benefits to firms that have a high percentage of licensed professionals. Do some research and make your case. If that doesn’t work, get creative. Start an Indie-Go-Go campaign, or when your relatives ask what you want for Christmas, tell them you’re saving up to get your credentials and want a check --- preferably blank .

So now, 20 years after I first sat for the exam, I have finally given the “debate” some thought. Yes, the exam is imperfect and so is the profession. The process is onerous and the rewards seem thin. But I can say without reservation that I have never questioned or regretted my choice to get licensed. It has served me well in the way potential clients and employers see me, but perhaps more importantly in the way I see myself. Starting as a young woman in this profession in the early 1990s, I struggled with presenting myself as a credible, authoritative professional. There was a sense among some older architects and contractors that female architects, even those with professional degrees, were somehow not to be trusted with the serious business of building. Having the title “Architect” bolstered me against these assumptions and gave me the confidence to reject them. And as hard as it is to believe that female architects still contend with implicit bias in 2015, I feel that licensure is powerful tool for countering that bias. And one final note: after 20 years of professional practice, I have transitioned to a consulting practice, which focuses on executive search for the built environment. In my new role, I talk to a lot of firm leaders and look at a slew of resumes and LinkedIn profiles. I can say that while not all employers demand licensure, without exception they prefer it. So if you want your resume to float to the top of the pile ---JUST DO IT!




EQxD Workshop #2 - What's Flex Got to do with Success? RECAP



On June 11th,  marking the 2 year anniversary of our group, Equity by Design took "Discussion and Action" a step further and another whale bite with the second EQxD "U" Program: What's Flex got to do with Success? about Work Life Flexibility challenges in the profession. 

Work life flexibility emerged as a major theme of last year's Equity in Architecture survey. Flexibility was one of the most important ways that our survey respondents defined success in their careers. The survey also shows that inflexible schedules and long hours are a real burden on our field - a significant portion of respondents had turned down opportunities or promotions due to issues of flexibility, people are leaving the field due to long hours and low pay, and taxing work schedules are a major obstacle to licensure. 

The workshop was hosted by AIA San Francisco with Amber Evans and Lilian Asperin-Clyman of the Equity by Design Committee. 4 guest panelists from a range of experience in Architecture and Engineering. Kirstin Weeks is a senior Energy and Building Ecology Specialist at Arup. Jeffrey Till has is an architect and Design Principal at Perkins & Will. Annette Jannotta is an interior architect with Flad Architects San Francisco. Douglas Speckhard is an architect and an Associate at Bohlin Cywinski Jackson.

The Storify recap of live tweets from the event with #EQxDFlexWorks is part of our initiative to leverage technology as a way to capture and document valuable ideas and lessons learned for continuing the dialogue and inspiring action in your firms, local AIA Chapters or in our larger AEC community.


Hungry for more Knowledge, Discussion and Action? Join us for EQxD "U" Workshop #3 on Thursday, August 13th at 6-8:30pm for "Collaboratie Negotiation is your Power Tool". Are you an avoider, accommodator, compromiser, collaborator or competitor when in comes to Negotiations? Talk with negotiation experts, Take the Thomas-Kilmann Analysis of your default negotiation style and then Practice your skills w/ our customized Negotiation Role Play in the Break-Out. This will be a popular session and likely sold-out, so sign up early! As with all our sessions, this workshop is beneficial to men and women and AEC professionals.




Promotion and Advancement: How to champion the Pull.

by Mike Davis, FAIA

Japanese gardeners use a small hand saw called a nokogiri. Cool thing about this tool? Instead of pushing on the blade, it cuts when you pull it.

Thanks to the Missing 32% Project: 2014 Equity in Architecture Survey findings, we know that very few women become principals or owners in US architectural firms. With this deficit front-of-mind, putting pressure on all architects to recognize and act on gender inequity is right. Creating pathways to leadership for women in architecture is critical. But that pressure – the equity push – may not in itself solve the problem in time to keep more women from giving up on the profession.

To make change happen urgently, we also need a complementary force. Call it … the pull.  

Defining the challenges with promotion and advancement in Architecture. 

Defining the challenges with promotion and advancement in Architecture. 

When your breakout topic for the Equity by Design “Hackathon” at the 2015 AIA National Convention is “Promotion and Advancement”, it becomes a question of how. How do we create the pull for promotion and advancement? What would convince the people – mostly men – running US architecture firms that having more women in senior leadership positions is vitally important?

We can make the business case for equity. 1) Studies prove the correlation between inclusivity on a corporate board and organizational profitability. 2) We have market research showing how much global spending is now being controlled by women. 3) And how about that Harvard Business Review report that says teams with more women on them are just smarter? We can argue the intrinsic value of diversity. We can opine that social intelligence – the sine qua non of 21st century enterprise – is stronger in women. Plenty of compelling evidence.

But in order for gender equity to happen any time soon, the men in charge of our firms need to change their behavior. Men-in-charge are the leverage point in the system as it currently exists. So to “hack” the system, men must be made part of the solution.

Speaking as a male Principal in an architectural firm, I’ve been in the conference room when candidates for promotion and advancement are being considered. Qualifications, talent, dedication, leadership, professionalism? Sure. All those factors are considered. But the thing that ultimately makes a bunch of architects decide to promote someone else to Principal? Trust.

Trust ultimately creates the pull for promotion. Not rational argument, not compelling evidence, not market studies. It’s not an intellectual decision. It’s an emotional one.

We know that there are men out there who want to see women succeed in architecture. And we know trust is contagious. So the Equity by Design Promotion and Advancement “hack” is: the formation of strategic intra-firm partnerships.

A strategic partnership would begin like this: Women, find advocates among your firm’s current Principals or senior leadership. Asking someone for advice is powerfully motivating. Engage them in candid conversation about mutual goal-setting, professional objectives, career paths. Be sure you frame your aspirations in terms of how the firm can also benefit. This is the basis for interpersonal trust in a corporate setting.

And if you can’t find those advocates at your current firm, get your resume in circulation.

Team members including Jessie Turnbull, Mike Davis, Meg Brown and Frances Choun pitch The Pull for Promotion and Advancement. 

Team members including Jessie Turnbull, Mike Davis, Meg Brown and Frances Choun pitch The Pull for Promotion and Advancement. 

The next step: understanding that a firm’s corporate values and behaviors derive from the values and behaviors exhibited by its Principals, the advocating Principals need to demonstrate their trust in the candidates to the rest of the firm. This could take the form of delegating authority for certain corporate activities or functions and then visibly supporting the candidates’ decisions.

In systems-thinking terms, the advocating Principals would be creating a reinforcing feedback loop. As more firm leaders witnessed this support, more would be inclined to extend their trust as well. The pull would be present. Promotion and advancement would follow.

Rather than relying on the interpersonal ju-jitsu of office politics, something more like mentoring is what creates lasting and mutually-beneficial trust. Eventually, this kind of exchange would also create a support network and a culture of open dialogue about professional development in the organization. And then, not only would gender equity and ownership transition be served, but a firm’s capacity to respond and adapt to unforeseen future challenges would also be strengthened.   

Japanese gardeners use a small hand saw called a nokogiri. Cool thing about this tool? Instead of pushing on the blade, it cuts when you pull it.

Japanese gardeners use a small hand saw called a nokogiri. Cool thing about this tool? Instead of pushing on the blade, it cuts when you pull it.

Strategic partnerships can build trust. And trust can create the pull for promotion and advancement. Like the nokogiri, pull works. 






Team Members:

  • Mike Davis, FAIA Bermeyer
  • Frances Choun, VP of McCarthy Building Companies
  • Meg Brown Principal, Perkins + Will
  • Jessie Turnbull, RA Associate, Robert AM Stern
  • Randy Seitz, Principal, AIA Blue Ridge Architects

What's next for EQxD?

Join us in San Francisco at AIASF on June 11th for our next EQxD "U" Workshop "What's Flex got to do with Success?" (Win Win Strategies for Work/Life Flexibility) Meet the panelists, and participate in small group break-outs to "hack" what works for flexibility in the modern workplace. This event is relevant to all AEC professionals! 6pm-8:30pm. 






Don’t ask for permission, ask for forgiveness.

Guest Blogpost by Jessica Rafferty

I recently traveled to Napa with two friends who are designers. Each sip of wine was followed by a critique of the tasting room, the detailing of the windows, or the questionable lighting used below the bar. Our conversation focused on the superfluous details while other visitors discussed the taste and quality of the wine. This is may seem like a familiar scene when designers get together. Work never really stays in the office when you’re passionate about it.  

At October's Equity by Design symposium in San Francisco, passion, well above financial compensation, was a common description as to why individuals took the path to architecture. However, according to this year’s Equity in Architecture Survey, a staggering amount of architects and designers are not satisfied by their jobs. After all-nighters in school, costly testing, and years of training with the expectation of making significantly less than other high-qualified professionals, what do you do when the passion starts to slip?

During the recession, I often heard my coworkers express that they felt lucky to just have a job. However, as growth returns to the industry, the Equity in Architecture Survey showed that women, as well as men, were struggling to find or maintain interest in their projects or job duties. In just the past year, my LinkedIn feed has been a critical tool for me to keep up with my peers’ movement in the industry, but do you have to leave your current job to find satisfaction? 

A major lesson from Equity by Design was to communicate your value. Communicating is not easy for everyone and that’s coming from someone who does marketing for a living. Laurie Dreyer of Stantec recommended in the Collaborative Negotiation session, “Don’t let karma dictate your future.” Speak up, ask for more. The worst someone can say is no, but at least you tried. This reminded me of one of my first project manager’s motto, “Don’t ask permission, ask for forgiveness”. The saying I’m sure was meant to inspire risk taking in design (but was often used to avoid explaining mysterious credit card charges). I like to consider the saying with a grain of salt, and often think about the phrase when I hesitate to speak up or think twice when negotiating.