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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?

I’ve seen glimpses of the future….and I can’t wait to see it arrive!

By Renée Cheng, FAIA, Professor and Director of the MS in Research Practices, University of Minnesota

Imagine a building industry that is lean, efficient and widely recognized for its valuable contributions to society. This industry would use research to identify and build upon best practices to create a more effective built environment. In this ideal future, leaders are diverse, so the industry reaps the benefit of creativity and innovation that comes from diversity while also reflecting the demographics of the communities it serves. This future will only be possible if we establish a vibrant culture of research and increase the number of women and people of color leading the industry. Over time, a long time, global population change may address the demographic issue, but we prefer not to wait.

At the University of Minnesota, we have developed the only program in the country that combines research, leadership and professional  licensure. Students conduct research projects that connect faculty and firm leaders, and along the way architecture students earn their license before graduating,shortening the time to license after graduation with a professional degree from an average of 7.6 years to 1 year. The Masters of Science in Architecture with a concentration in Research Practices (MSRP) is a three semester program that provides graduates of B. Arch and M. Arch programs with a structured path to licensure. The MSRP program has created the Consortium for Research practices, a group of AEC firms dedicated to pursuing new research and ideas. In addition to coursework on research methods and analysis, students within the program spend 25 hours a week working with a host firm from within the consortium and a faculty mentor to tackle a research topic, and the research is then shared with the entire consortium. Since the research is practice-based, the hours meet AXP requirements. Students’ AXP progress is complemented with coursework covering topics related to the ARE exams and students complete all exams during the academic program.

After four years of running the MSRP, we realised its greatest value to the profession is not licensure. The program’s largest impact is how it identifies future leaders and gives them opportunities to succeed. Students contribute to their firms by addressing emerging areas that are typically unexplored in traditional practice. Anecdotally, we have heard that our graduates receive responsibilities typically given to those who graduated five years before them. This suggests that, if a typical trajectory brings a graduate to partnership in 10-15 years, MSRP graduates could reach partnership in 5-10 years. We understand that if our graduates are predominantly women and people currently underrepresented in our industry, our program’s accelerated path to firm leadership could help change the face of the architectural profession, pushing it to look significantly more like the diversity of the communities we serve. For this reason, we have prioritized recruiting a diverse student body. Currently, our small cohort is 80% women of color.

Equity by Design’s research findings indicate that connection to senior leaders is one of the most important predictors of various attributes of success early in one’s career. MSRP students directly collaborate with senior partners and faculty experts on projects that typically focus on areas of innovation and emerging practices. From this work, students are not only networked into leadership circles, but also have the opportunity to demonstrate expertise in ways most interns are never asked to do. We believe students are capable of far more than we ask them to do in a traditional professional setting. This program provides the opportunity for students to shine.

Many strategic plans for firms and schools set goals to increase diversity and change demographics, but as the saying goes, “culture eats strategy for breakfast.” There is no easy way to achieve these goals because it’s not about changing numbers but changing culture. Culture change is hard but can be achieved with big goals and small steps. We’ve started to see this with the firms that are part of the Consortium for Research Practices, the essential base to the MSRP program. Some have developed internal interdisciplinary groups to identify research priorities, others adapted their previous practices to include more research in more areas. We’ve also seen firms shift how they communicate internally and externally about research and the work of the students.

Our program is new and growing, so measuring our broader impact is yet to come, but we believe that we provide a model linking practice with academy in order to change the culture of the industry through small projects that lead to massive change. We are impatient for the future of our industry and are doing everything we can to accelerate its arrival.

For more information about MSRP see <>. We have full fellowships to award by April 15; to nominate a student who has graduated or will be graduating with a B.Arch or M.Arch professional degree, please email Associate Director Andrea J. Johnson, <>

About our guest blog writer - 

Renée Cheng, FAIA

Professor, Associate Dean for Research and Engagement, University of Minnesota.  

Renée Cheng is a nationally renowned Professor and Associate Dean at the University of Minnesota.  Educated at Harvard College and Harvard Graduate School of Design, Cheng has been recognized for education excellence with numerous teaching awards at the school, state and national level. Most recently, Cheng was twice honored as one of the top 25 most admired design educators in the United States by Design Intelligence.  She led a team of faculty from the University of Minnesota who won the American Institute of Architects (AIA) Education Honor Award for a transformative professional curriculum and developed a professional practice course, Building Stories, that won the first Practice Leadership Award from AIA and ACSA. Cheng served as 2009 President of AIA Minnesota and is a former member of AIA National Board advisory group on Integrated Practice (IPDiG) and the AIA National Board Knowledge Committee, AIA Center for Integrated Practice and currently AIA Culture Collective leading a group on Firm Culture.

Why Every Project is My "First"

by Rosa T. Sheng, AIA, LEED AP BD+C

Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.

Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.
— Steve Jobs, Excerpts from The 2005 Stanford Commencement Speech

#Architalks is back again. For those that are unfamiliar with Architalks, it is the brainchild of Bob Borson, AIA (also the recent recipient of the Texas Society of Architects Honor Award for his social media contributions to spread the awareness of Architects and Architecture to the general public.) Architalks can be thought of as Architects blogs meets The Iron Chef:  November's secret ingredient topic is "My First Project". 

The "first" thing that popped into my head was trying to decide what would define a "first" project. There are no fast an ready rules and we are all left to our own devices to figure how we approach the topic. So I let my stream of consciousness lead the way and the results teased out many firsts:

  • My first project on the first day of architecture school (yes, but too abstract, not architectural)
  • My first project in studio with architectural solution (yes, but design outcome wasn't that great)
  • My first project at my first job after graduation? (My multiple 1st projects were not memorable)
  • My first project completed as a Project Architect? (If I told you, I would have to...)
  • My first project that I got really excited and passionate about? (okay, I may be on to something...)

If you were to capture all the "firsts" and boil it down to its bare essence, there is a common thread. It's the feeling of excitement of unknown potential; the Tabula Rasa (or blank slate) effect. There is an exhilaration of limitless possibilities; to produce a successful, positive impact that is aesthetically stimulating in form and seamlessly integrated in function. And with that "first" project or experience, we have a more heightened sense and awareness. The process of design somewhat demands that we come to the table with this "first" project frame of reference. Without it, we would be crippled in our ability to deliver the creative problem solving skills which make our profession so valuable to those we serve. 

Pixar Animation Studios

Pixar Animation Studios

Part of the challenge throughout my 21 year architectural career has been to keep that fresh, optimistic perspective and excitement of that "first" project. New clients, new site, new programmatic opportunity and challenges, new consultant and design team. And in many ways, I have been very fortunate that most of the projects I have worked on have been "firsts". Each one is unique from the others, but they all had the desire to innovate; breaking new ground, leading others to new ways of seeing and doing things that had never been done before.  And sometimes the fact that "it" hadn't been done before, is like a dare of sorts to be the "first" to accomplish it.

This has applied not only to architectural project work, but the amazing movement of Equity in Architecture that started with founding Equity by Design a little more than two years ago. Each major initiative has been a "first" project. The Missing 32% Project Equity in Architecture Survey which garnered 2289 national responses. The Equity by Design Symposium which was a "first" in delivering an interactive and engaging conference format which sold out with 250 attendees from all over the country. The EQxD Hackathon which was the first workshop at AIA National Convention to leverage a new format for continuing education. And AIA Resolution 15-1, Equity in Architecture which garnered the support of 4,117 delegates at the AIA National Convention in Atlanta. 

Equity by Design: Knowledge, Discussion, Action! - October 2014

Equity by Design: Knowledge, Discussion, Action! - October 2014

So I encourage you to suspend disbelief and embrace each new project you encounter as if it were your "first" project.

Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish. 


Please explore other takes on the November #Architalks topic "My First Project" with the veritable offerings from the architect blog community started by Bob Borson

Bob Borson - Life of An Architect (@bobborson)
My First Project: The Best Project Ever Designed That Wasn't

Marica McKeel - Studio MM (@ArchitectMM)
My "First Project"

Jeff Echols - Architect Of The Internet (@Jeff_Echols)
My First Project - Again

Lee Calisti, AIA - Think Architect (@LeeCalisti)
first project first process

Mark R. LePage - Entrepreneur Architect (@EntreArchitect)
Our First Architecture Project [#ArchiTalks]

Lora Teagarden - L² Design, LLC (@L2DesignLLC)
#ArchiTalks: My first project

Eric T. Faulkner - Rock Talk (@wishingrockhome)
The First One -- A Tale of Two Projects

Michele Grace Hottel - Michele Grace Hottel, Architect (@mghottel)
"My First Project"

Michael Riscica - Young Architect (@YoungArchitxPDX)
The Early Years of My Architecture Career - My Role

brady ernst - Soapbox Architect (@bradyernstAIA)
I Hate Decks

Eric Wittman - intern[life] (@rico_w)
[first] project [worst] crit

Sharon George - Architecture By George (@sharonraigeorge)
My First Project - The First Solar Decathlon #Architalks

Emily Grandstaff-Rice - Emily Grandstaff-Rice AIA (@egraia)
Project Me

Daniel Beck - The Architect's Checklist (@archchecklist)
Fake it 'til you make it

Jarod Hall - di'velept (@divelept)
Define First

Anthony Richardson - That Architecture Student (@thatarchstudent)
my first project

Drew Paul Bell - Drew Paul Bell (@DrewPaulBell)
My First Project

Jeffrey A Pelletier - Board & Vellum (@boardandvellum)
Top ten tips when faced with a challenging Architectural project

Aaron Bowman - Product & Process (@PP_Podcast)
Community 101

Samantha Raburn - The Aspiring Architect (@TheAspiringArch)
6 Major Differences between my 1st School Project & my 1st Real Project

Kyu Young Kim - Palo Alto Design Studio (@sokokyu)
My First Project – The Contemporary Cottage

Nisha Kandiah - TCDS (@SKRIBBLES_INC)
The Question of Beginning

Cormac Phalen - Cormac Phalen (@archy_type)

Why you should attend AIA SF NEXT Conference Nov 12 + 13

by Rosa Sheng, AIA, LEED AP BD+C

In 3 weeks, AIA SF is hosting the "NEXT" Conference on November 12 & 13th in San Francisco. What is NEXT? And THAT is precisely the question the event will be addressing. 

The word “revolution” is especially apt today. Now, more than ever, the world is changing. How people design and make things is not just evolving, but being completely disrupted again. We’re on the cusp of a new (and very real) revolution: It’s the “Era of Connection.”

How will people design and make things in the future? It’s helpful to take a look at the past in order to understand the major changes that are on the horizon.
— Phil Bernstein, FAIA for "Line, Shape, Space" by Autodesk

Coming off of the last EQxD "U" Workshop: Architecture And... we had in-depth conversations about debunking the myths of traditional practice while exploring meaning and influence through the lens of 4 distinct multidisciplinary practitioners. 

The AIA SF NEXT Conference is a unique opportunity to extend and expand the conversation about how the professional practice of Architecture will need to adapt to the needs of our rapidly changing society that is affected by advancements in technology, transitions in commerce and availability of land and natural resources.

Day 1 will feature a Placemaking Deep Dive on November 12th at the Exploratorium, which is a continuation of the highly successful Placemaking Summit that occurred earlier this year.  The day includes interactive panel sessions and networking opportunities with leaders in the Placemaking movement; Urban planners, Professors, Government Agencies, and Activists.

  • Rethinking Space, Place, and Our Built Environment
  • PLACEMAKING / Stabilizing Neighborhoods
  • Urban Placemaking: Views from the Academy and Practice

Day 2 will begin with "The New Frontiers of Design", a keynote presentation from Paola Antonelli, curator of MOMA New York. The remainder of the day will feature 12 insightful seminar options within 3 tracks: Design, Business and Technology with 50+ diverse speakers including Architects, Engineers, Scientists, Urban Planners, City of SF Supervisor, Sustainability Experts, and Software Developers, and Entrepreneurs. For the full schedule of seminars, you can visit the website. Some noteworthy titles include: 

Based on Equity by Design's successful workshop Negotiation is your Power Tool,  I will be co-presenting a 60 minute workshop Innovative Negotiation: The Art and Science of Making the Deal at 2:30pm with Elizabeth Tippin, Esq., general counsel for design professional firms and Joan Williams, Distinguished Professor of Law at UC Hastings and author of several publications and journal articles on women's advancement in the workplace.

There will also be the AIA SF Annual Member's Business Meeting and Party on Friday Evening from 6-9pm (which is free for AIA SF Members). It will be a great opportunity to continue the conversation of how we can better engage, advocate, and promote the profession beyond Architects in the "Era of Connections". 

So in summary, here are the reasons why you should attend the AIASF Next Conference




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):


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.&nbsp;

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. 






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. 


In Equitable PracticearchitalksINSPIRE%TagsEQxDGetReal

(WE310) Equity by Design Hackathon @AIA National Convention Atlanta!

Equity in Architecture is a call to action for both women and men to realize the goal of equitable practice in order to attract and retain talent, advance and sustain the profession, and communicate the value of architectural design to society. This event is open to everyone and has relevant learning objectives for all Architects.

Join us on 5/13 1pm-5pm for the most energizing half-day workshop inspired by the sold-out 2014 symposium, Equity by Design: Knowledge, Discussion, Action! We will begin the day by reviewing a full report of key findings from the 2014 Equity in Architecture Survey topics: Hiring and Retention, Growth and Development, Meaning and Influence, followed by interactive conversations about the pinch points that affect talent retention in Architecture. 


Hackathon! The second part of the afternoon will feature the first AIA Convention "mini-Hackathon". What is a Hackathon? Very similar in format to a design charrette, using this rapid prototyping format will leverage your Design Thinking skills to propose actionable initiatives and best practices for talent recruitment, career advancement, and building the business case for equity. This video by Daylight via Vimeo demonstrates the process.

Finally, you and your group will present a 5 minute "pitch" of your proposed equity initiative to a panel of judges. Pitches will be rated with final equity initiatives being featured in blog posts and social media. Sign up for WE310 Equity by Design as pre-convention during Convention Registration. Ask your firm or local AIA Chapter to sponsor your attendance and bring back this valuable knowledge to affect change! 


Following the workshop, Hackathon workshop participants will be invited to a complimentary Happy Hour 5:30pm-7:30pm at Studio No. 7 for Jury deliberations and Awards. If you can't make the WE310 Workshop, we will have registration to attend Happy Hour event so that you can catch up on the highlights of the Hackathon! Proceeds beyond costs of the event go to funding the 2016 Equity in Architecture Survey.

Studio No. 7 - 393 Marietta Street N.W. Atlanta, GA 30313

Happy Hour (only) registration includes networking, a recap of the EQxD Hackathon, Jury results and award announcements accompanied by an assortment of wines and appetizers inspired by Latin American and Asian cuisine that is seasonal and prepared with craft and care. If you register with AIA for the WE310 5/13 workshop, then Happy Hour is included.




Can Design Solve the Confidence Conundrum?

When the Atlantic featured The Confidence Gap article in early April about Claire Shipman and Katty Kay's new book, The Confidence Code, there was a tidal wave of response, both in agreement and counterpoint of their take that women's confidence challenges are heavily genetically driven and therefore an unavoidable impediment to their success.  Shipman and Kay postulate that women lack self-assurance relative to their male competitors. In a study referenced, women would not apply for a job unless they had 100 percent of the qualifications, men would apply even if they only met 60 percent. And even if women are truly qualified and competent, their is constant self-doubt, anxiety, guilt and apologies about under-performing when the reality is far from critical self-perception.

A tidal wave of debate came in its wake voicing concerns of strongly flawed theory that will further hinder women's professional advancement. Jessica Valenti's article The Female Confidence Gap is a Sham in The Guardian argues that the Confidence Gap theory is driven by varying degrees of societal gender bias, rather than biological differences between men and women.

"The "confidence gap" is not a personal defect as much as it is a reflection of a culture that gives women no reason to feel self-assured. ...A Women's lack of confidence could actually just be a keen understanding of just how little American society values them."

If encouraging women to be more confident in seeking leadership roles and in turn teach self-assurance to others that results in meaningful change for future generations – we as a society need to start by creating a culture that values and supports assertive women. 

Similarly, Tracy Moore echoes that perspective in her Jezebel piece Solve Sexism with Overconfidence, hope and changing your brain. Moore's issue with the Confidence Gap is rooted in how women are presented as "lacking" confidence vs. looking at men as being overconfident. Thus, the skewed frame of reference (and burden of fixing) is focused on women. 

"So when the authors call it a "confidence gap," I have to wonder why they didn't call it an "overconfidence gap"? Is the problem women not thinking they are good enough, or men thinking they are better than they are? In other words, they totally wrote the article like the women they describe: too willing to point the finger at themselves.

After hearing both sides of the discussion, the relevant points of this complex issue lead us to consider the Confidence Conundrum: Do we accept a gender biased status quo and put the onus of achieving equitable advancement on qualified competent women to work harder, stronger, smarter with a heaping dose of self-help induced confidence, (without complaint) to overcome systemic gender challenges? Or, If Equity rides more heavily on fixing a gender biased society that requires major systemic change, where do we begin the disruptive, long and challenging road to shifting the current culture. And realistically, as true systemic culture shifts happen over decades and generations, will our generation get to experience gender blindness and true Equity in Architectural Practice in our career lifetime? 

As Architects, we are trained to solve design problems of aesthetic and technical complexity.  At times, many of our design projects have had a conundrum-like quality with diametrically opposed factors pulling and pushing us to near points of despair. The iterative, dynamic and morphing nature of the design process that is subjected to constant internal and external critique can be applied in our approach for seeking solutions to the Confidence Conundrum and concurrently in Equitable Practice.  While considering the powerful potential of supporting Equity by way of Design Thinking, I came across a parallel strategy. Could design thinking help bridge the Confidence Gap? by Anne Gibbon for The Stanford D School uses Strategic Design Thinking to address the gender bias / confidence conundrum in Technology. It all started with a simple question on a whiteboard: If you were to take on the challenge of growing the number of women in leadership roles, how would you go about it?  Anne's strategy of taking her idea and quickly creating an actionable prototype worked for her own self-coaching for leadership goals.

What if we applied our years of architectural design training and critical thinking to individual and collective challenges of licensure, career advancement, recognition, work life flexibility and retention of Women in Architecture? Is there a way to leverage our training to test and critique best practices that promote Equity? And how do we track what we implement is working? Concurrent with the results of the Equity in Architecture Survey and ongoing research initiatives, we will be hosting a series of discussions on this topic culminating this fall with the 3rd Symposium for The Missing 32% Project: Equity by Design. So Stay tuned.

By Rosa T. Sheng, AIA LEED AP BD+C

Mentorship, informally.

For the past three years I have been mentoring two young architects. We have ended this relationship as informally as it began, when one found a new position in a great firm and the other won a design competition abroad.

I didn't work with either architect at their respective firms, but such is the close-knit architectural community here in San Francisco that I found myself informally mentoring them when they started their careers during the recession.  As with many of these mentorships which I take on from time to time, this happened easily and naturally. We got to know each other during social and professional settings; quickly a relationship formed. I wanted to help and guide.  They wanted someone (who was not their supervisor or co-worker) to talk to. While mentoring takes time and commitment, the time together can be quite easily productive, even when it is informal. Over coffee or after-work drinks we talked about work schedules and commutes, dealing with unprofessional colleagues, pay disparity, the latest projects in the pipeline, and the etiquette in approaching principals who moved to new firms.


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