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There has been much discussion raised about "Why are women leaving Architecture? and more broadly, Why is the profession losing key talent?"  Both women and men practitioners are disillusioned by the myth of work/life balance: Women are grappling with "have it all" expectations of juggling family time with the demands of full-time work.  Men are struggling to support their families solely on an architect's salary and fall back on asking spouses to maintain their jobs. The lack of affordable childcare and high cost of living only magnifies the challenges.  How did we end up in this modern family dilemma? What can we do to improve the situation?

EQxD's TEDxPhiladelphia Video - Why does Equity in Architecture Matter?

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

TEDxPhiladelphia 2015 - Why does Equity in Architecture Matter?

TEDxPhiladelphia 2015 - Why does Equity in Architecture Matter?

On June 11, 2013, I made one of the most important life changing decisions, ever. While I was having a pre-midlife crisis and could have easily chose to give up out of hopelessness, fear, and self-doubt, I was asked to present as a panelist at a conference called "The Missing 32%".  There, I met my future champions, who assured me that my career, life and achievements had value worth sharing with others. We collectively agreed to take action in the name of equity in architecture. On that fateful day, I asked many to come to the table to form what would become "The Missing 32% Project" and later evolved into Equity by Design, a committee of AIA SF. On June 11, 2015, I shared the amazing story with an audience of 1200 at TEDxPhiladelphia of what came about during the 2 years since I made the decision to stay in the profession and take action for positive change. There is a lot of work still to be done, and plenty more bites of the whale to go around. But the sight of more people coming to the table with forks in hand is very encouraging and we have a lot more in store for 2016! So grab your fork, watch the video, share with all the architects and non-architects you know. We can make a difference, one bite at a time.

This week, TEDxPhiladelphia is releasing all 14 talks to the public via Youtube. I am honored and humbled to be in the presence of so many amazing people, their work and causes, and their message to the world. Please visit the official website to view them all and please consider supporting future talks produced by this amazing group.

EQxD on KQED Forum

On the heels of TEDxPhiladelphia last week, I was contacted by Irene Noguchi, the producer of KQED Forum to share the work that we have been doing the past 2 years with a larger audience. On Friday, June 19th, I visited the KQED Forum Studio to chat with guest host Aarti Shahani, Tech Reporter for NPR. We had an interactive session, including questions and comments from KQED's wide audience of listeners in the Bay Area and beyond. In addition to talking about the formation of Equity by Design, we discussed some of the key statistics and touched upon examples of initiatives that we are working on to take more bites out of the proverbial whale.

During the call in portion of the program, someone who called in questioned the American Institute of Architects position on supporting women in architecture. Although the past record of support has been a topic of discussion, our current and future actions in partnership with the Institute is very promising. We look forward to mutually tackling the challenges of achieving equitable practice and supporting architects to remain in the profession. There is a lot of work ahead with getting resolution 15-1 implemented and we need more people at the table. Please consider taking action and getting involved to secure a brighter future for those underrepresented in our profession. There are many ways to do this and we look forward to generating more ideas in the future.

Another architect wrote about her experience as a mother of two young children feeling pressure from the firm where she worked about the inadequacy of her reduced hours. It felt very real to the challenges I faced at the same point in my professional and personal life. I also shared Pamela Tang's inspiring story of returning to architecture after a long hiatus to raise her 4 children.  

Another question asked about the role of architects in creating more accessible spaces as more people encounter physical challenges or disabilities. I mentioned the work of Chris Downey, an architect in the Bay Area who became blind during his career. He continues to practice today providing design services with alternative tools that allow him to continue his work and serve the sight- impaired community. AIA National shared Chris' story at the convention in Atlanta and you can watch it via this link.

Special thanks to the Equity by Design committee (with great appreciation for Co-chair Lilian Asperin-Clyman and head of research Annelise Pitts), AIA San Francisco, our Equity Alliance champions, our sponsors and supporters for the survey and our current outreach. We look forward to sharing more exciting programs and outreach for the coming year!

And Justice for All - TEDxPhiladelphia 2015 Highlights

by Rosa Sheng, AIA

The theme of TEDxPhiladelphia 2015 was centered around the final four words from The Pledge of Allegiance: “And Justice For All”. The full day program of 4 sessions explored the presence of universal concepts in our communities including access, fairness, opportunity and democracy; and purposefully acknowledged lessons learned and questions raised in their absence.

Out of 400 applicants, I was privileged to be among the  14 speakers on Thursday, June 11, 2015 at Temple Performing Arts Center. We came from diverse professions and backgrounds; entrepreneurs, business leaders, a child advocate, a professional protestor, a scientist, an artist, an educator,  a lawyer, a police commissioner, a journalist, a Pastor, and an Architect. From the beginning to the end, the TEDxPhiladelphia organizers were nothing short of amazing supporters and professionals; most of whom have volunteered their time and effort to make this event the great success that it was. Special thanks goes to Emaleigh Doley, Michelle Freeman, and Marcia McInnes for asking me to be part of this provocative and engaging event.

The following is an excerpt of what I intended to say, that didn't fully get into the final talk. I had worked on this "speech" for the last several months and planned to memorize the talk in its entirety and deliver it with great finesse and polish (Just like those TED videos I keep watching). Well, during the dress rehearsal, to my chagrin, I realized that I had written more than I could adequately deliver in the 18 minute time slot allocated for each of the TEDx speakers. So rather than panic about getting everything "perfect", I gave myself liberty to speak from the heart. If I forgot some of the key words or thoughts I wanted to convey, I reassured myself that I could always share them here. I believe that made all the difference in my ability to calm my nerves before I stepped out to speak to the audience of 1100. 

So, Why should you care about Equity in Architecture? and Why does Architecture matter in the first place?
Equity is not just an issue in Architecture. And it’s not just about getting equal representation in gender or racial diversity. Equity is about asking WHO can bring new ideas to solving difficult challenges? And WHO adds a different yet compelling viewpoint to the conversation. It's about noticing WHO’s missing at the table? And asking those people to join in. 
Social Equity builds Economic Equity. At the core: It’s about valuing the spectrum of humanity and building greater empathy. And influence is the social capital of meaningful connections that becomes the basis for stronger teams, higher satisfaction, and talent retention;
Equity is about conscious inclusion; recognizing and giving people fair access to opportunities and resources they need, so that we can ALL achieve the American dream; Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
And Architecture is not just for Architects. And It’s not just for the 2% of the population who currently hires them.  Architecture is for everyone. According to the EPA, We spend nearly 90% of our time INSIDE of buildings and the impact of the built environment has a lasting effect on how we work, how we learn, our health, safety and welfare. There tends to be a focus on Architecture with a capital “A” where most of the recognition goes toward iconic buildings (important places where important things happen).  But functional everyday “architecture”, for PEOPLE is where the true value of design lies. Our homes, offices, schools, libraries, civic centers, shops and restaurants, are such an integral part of our lives. How can we all engage in a collective conversation of what is missing and what is needed to make our communities better? 
"In order for Equity to become a reality, we need to go beyond just thinking differently. We can make a bigger difference by what we DO. Stay hungry for change, go grab your fork and join us at the table."

There are so many things that I learned from my fellow speakers including their passion, resolve, creativity and generosity to pay it forward. I will be sharing more in the coming months as there is too much to process and it wouldn't do justice to summarize their talks in one post.  I have included the gallery of photos as well as the Livestream raw video capture so that you can get a sense of the day. (They will be creating final versions for official TEDx viewing in the coming months.)

There is also a great opportunity for collaboration between architects and the greater Philadelphia community as we prepare for the AIA National Convention 2016. So I encourage you to get involved and engaged to learn more about our next host city.

The youtube video is now live! You can view the TEDxPhiladelphia talk here as well as the rest of the other speakers.

EQxD @ TEDxPhiladelphia 2015: And Justice For All

We are pleased to announce that Rosa Sheng will be speaking about Equity by Design: Knowledge, Discussion, Action! on Thursday, June 11th at TEDxPhiladelphia 2015: And Justice For All. Please visit the official website for full program information, speakers, and tickets. 


About: Equity by Design: The Missing 32% Project

Fueled by the persistent and striking gender inequity within architectural practice, where women compose only 12–18 percent of AIA members, licensed architects, and senior firm leadership, Equity by Design (previously known as the Missing 32% Project), a committee of AIASF, was developed as a call to action for both women and men to help realize the goal of equitable practice to advance architecture, sustain the profession , and communicate the value of design to society. The group's work has been featured in the Wall Street Journal and major architectural publications including Architect Magazine, Architecture Record, Contract Magazine. In 2015, Equity by Design has been presenting the findings in numerous cities nationally (including Boston, New York, Portland, Austin, and Atlanta for the AIA National Convention) and internationally in Lisbon, Portugal for Matrices: The 2nd International Congress of Gender and Architecture. 


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.


Rosa T. Sheng, AIA, founded AIASF Equity by DesignThe Missing 32% Project in July 2013. She joined Bohlin Cywinski Jackson in 1997 and helped start the firm’s San Francisco office in 1999, while serving as the project architect for Pixar Animation Studio’s headquarters in Emeryville, CaliforniaAs Senior Associate and licensed architect with 21 years experience in Architecture and design, Sheng has led a variety of award-winning and internationally acclaimed projects; from the aesthetically minimal, highly technical development of the glass structures for Apple’s original high-profile retail stores in New York and San Francisco, to the innovative and sustainable LEED NC Gold–certified Lorry I. Lokey Graduate School of Business at Mills College in Oakland, California. She was recently part of the team for the headquarters of e-commerce startup Square and is currently working on innovative projects for the University of California, Davis and Dominican University of California in San Rafael.

About: TEDxPhiladelphia 2015: And Justice For All

The fourth annual TEDxPhiladelphia conference will be held on Thursday, June 11, 2015 at Temple Performing Arts Center. “And Justice For All” – the final four words of the Pledge of Allegiance – embodies the powerful and timely theme of the conference this year. This exploration of access and equity will showcase great ideas for building more just cities. TEDxPhiladelphia has convened a diverse speaker roster representative of today’s leading thinkers who will connect with over 1,200 multigenerational attendees and an ever-growing online audience on conference day and beyond. 

TEDxPhiladelphia is a not-for-profit initiative, licensed by TED and created in the spirit of of the TED conference and its mission, “ideas worth spreading.” TEDxPhiladelphia events offer interactive, immersive experiences for all participants from speakers to attendees.