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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?

EQxDV “Plus One” Voices: Change Starts with Conversations and Community

Written by Itria Licitra

#EQxDV Plus One Scholarship Recipients and Mentors gathering for the first time - Photo by Andre Pennycooke  

#EQxDV Plus One Scholarship Recipients and Mentors gathering for the first time - Photo by Andre Pennycooke  

On Saturday, November 3rd, 2018, I found myself looking out over the unusually clear morning bay from the San Francisco Art Institute’s patio - the location for #EQxDV: Voices, Values, Vision Symposium. I am not a member of the architecture community, as a structural engineer, I am architecturally adjacent. I walked onto the patio - lively with the eager chatter of colleagues ready to dive into a difficult and exhausting day of conversations about a number of challenges in the field - unsure of what was to come. Much of what was said over the day was specific to the architecture field, but I was able to find a number of parallels with the engineering field and many tips and tools to inform my approach to my professional practice.

Tactical Implementation Workshop  

Tactical Implementation Workshop  

In the afternoon I attended the “Tactical Implementation” breakout session. During the session, 4 firm leaders spoke about how they exercise and monitor equity at their workplace. After hearing from the speakers, we broke out into small groups based on company size and brainstormed what strategies of tactical implementation would look like at small, medium and large scale. There were two tactics that particularly stood out to me. The first, so simple and seemingly obvious, was to define company values then evaluate how well the company is achieving those values. Setting clear goals and defining what success looks like helps to better measure how well a company is performing with respect to predefined values. I imagine that exercises like this would also help facilitate conversations about nature and cause shortcomings. The second tactic came up a few times throughout the day, it was about how to foster a more diverse workplace. My takeaway was that recruitment should occur in the communities that you would like to see represented in your company. Be intentional about making the company accessible in those spaces.

Through the breakout sessions and the conversations that ensued throughout the day, I was struck by the strength of the community that was forming around me, the kindness and enthusiasm that people were showing towards each other and me, and the ways so many people were tackling the challenge of equity in various ways. I felt inspired by the strength of the people that spoke, willing to share their experiences with all of us and help facilitate this community. Equity by Design has provided a space, for people to come together to share similar and dissimilar experiences. This allowed people to create a network of inspiration and support that I was witness to continuously throughout the day.

Vision Panel - Photo by Rosa Sheng  

Vision Panel - Photo by Rosa Sheng  

I am still relatively new to the industry with just a few years under my belt. I am feeling my way around engineering and design - reconciling the things that I really enjoy with the positive and negative effects that my work has on my community. I live in the Bay Area, where it is rare that a week passes without a conversation about housing prices, gentrification or the tech industry. I cannot pretend like my work does not play a role in this climate. I participate in an industry that primarily creates spaces that are not accessible to me. There are redeeming projects and I do find value, but I would like to find a better way to exercise my skills in a more meaningful way. At the end of the day, listening to the Vision panelists speak, I felt a renewed hope that there are wholly good projects out there. I want to take the conversation they started a step further and explore how we can remove micro-aggressions from everyday projects. How can we use our power and influence to encourage owners to consider how equity can be designed and built in? I don’t know the answer, but I would like to be around to explore options and see where this conversation goes.

Photo by Andre Pennycooke  

Photo by Andre Pennycooke  

#EQxDV: "Plus One" Voices: Belonging Together

Written by Maggie Gaudio

As I prepared to attend my first #EQXDV Symposium, I did not know what to expect. In all honesty, I wasn’t quite sure what “Equity by Design” really meant. Initially, I jumped to the conclusion that it meant “equitable design” since I am still in architecture school and have made it my personal goal to create socially conscious designs that benefit everyone as opposed to select groups of people.


My naivety became clear to me the moment the symposium began and I was exposed to Equity in Architecture Survey findings - data the organizers of the event had collected from over 14,000 professionals in the realm of architecture and design. This data covered the current climate of the profession in regards to gender, race, salary, values, work/life balance and so forth. The reality of this data and the conversations that flowed from it revealed to me that equity by design, although still related to equitable design, has a much broader and holistic meaning. I learned that equity by design means bringing understanding to the profession. An understanding that everyone is different and brings valuable, relevant qualities to the table. Therefore each should be appreciated and rewarded appropriately. Currently, there is a general awareness of this, yet not an overall understanding and implementation of it.

The following are some issues that I had encountered before attending the symposium but feel I learned about much more deeply throughout the event:

  1. Women in architecture and the related fields are still being paid less than men.

  2. Only about 440 black females in the country are registered architects. In the country!!

  3. Many women leave the profession after having children.

  4. The concept of work/life balance means something different to everyone.


These topics are prime examples of how today’s professional field of architecture is aware of the fact that people are different, yet there is not an understanding and appreciation of this difference. There is such a lack of understanding that women are either not getting licensed or leaving the field because of their race, their commitments to their families, or their unequal salaries. As a woman entering the profession and interested in one day having a family and a life outside of my job, this causes me significant concern. However, having attended the symposium - hearing from and speaking with people who share similar concerns as me - it was inspiring and refreshing to be surrounded by like-minded people as dedicated to creating a more inclusive professional field as myself.


This collective dedication and passion for the same cause was contagious and the sense of community was palpable. One of the several panelists that we had the pleasure of listening to, Damaris Hollingsworth, said that she believed the definition of community was when we intentionally behave as if we belong together. I wholeheartedly agree with this and it was clear that the attendees of the symposium intentionally behaved as if they belonged there and comfortably shared their thoughts with each other.

Unfortunately, I don’t think it is quite the same in the day-to-day reality of the architectural profession. Well, not yet. As with most cultural shifts, major changes don’t happen overnight. But the symposium is an example of first steps, of bringing awareness to the issues at hand and fostering an inspiring environment in which people can openly share ideas on how to make change happen. Throughout the day, there was an emphasis on the concept of champions - of being a champion for someone else and of having a champion for yourself. When we are surrounded by the support of such champions, we feel empowered to make a difference. I definitely felt (and still feel!) empowered by the champions I met at the symposium to become an increasingly engaged and active member of this community, united in the cause of creating a more inclusive and understanding profession.

Belonging Together - “It was clear that the attendees of the symposium intentionally behaved as if they belonged there and comfortably shared their thoughts with each other.”

Belonging Together - “It was clear that the attendees of the symposium intentionally behaved as if they belonged there and comfortably shared their thoughts with each other.”

#EQxDV "Plus One" Voices: How one day can impact your life

Written by Olga Bracamontes, NOMA

When Diane Jacobs, from Holly Street Studio in Phoenix, sent me the application for the #EQxDV Plus One Scholarship, I had no idea what lay ahead of me. Two weeks prior to attending the Equity by Design Symposium, I was returning home from the 2018 NOMA Conference after hosting a seminar with my chapter, NOMAarizona. I was aware of the Equity in Architecture Survey but had no clue about the symposium. I knew I was in for a treat when reading through the breakout session topics and the panelist discussions.


As my first time attending a conference alone, especially out of town, I was very excited yet a bit nervous but I was sure that I’d be able to connect with amazing people. The moment I walked up to the registration table on Saturday morning, who did I run into? My mentor: Jill Bergman! What are the chances! We spent our morning getting to know each other, talking about the conference and sharing words of knowledge.

Although the data and panel discussions were informative, it isn’t surprising that there is a lot of work yet to be done in our industry and the AEC community for equitable practice. Rosa Sheng = wow! This woman is a true leader and speaks in such a way that moves you. She brought so much energy to the room full of attendees with her story, words of inspiration, and raised questions that I hadn’t put thought into before. Rosa started the conference by talking about the difference between equality, equity and justice, and why equity matters. This conversation framed the content of the symposium and caused me to do a lot of self-reflection. Why do I do what I do? Because I need to be who I needed growing up.

As I filled my new #EQxDV sketchbook with notes throughout the day, I reflected upon my personal contributions, involvement with the community and the youth. I felt proud of the work I’ve done over the last few years, especially my involvement with NOMAarizona over the last year as a founding member. Diversity and inclusion is our driving force as a chapter, and as the College Liaison I have been fortunate to work closely with college students as they are the future. But after hearing the stories from the panelists I thought, “there is SO much more for me to do!”

If there is something that I really appreciated from the symposium was that they provided a safe space, a place to be vulnerable without judgement. People shared amazing stories, often accompanied with their failures and struggles, which is important for me to hear. We aren’t perfect. Life is full of struggles. It’s ok to talk about them and be willing to share with others. As a young professional who is actively involved with the community and aspires to have a family someday, I know that I will face many struggles but the women I met at the symposium assured me that it IS possible to do both. It’s definitely not an easy road, but it can be done.


Last but not least; the people. I’m very grateful to have been paired up with a wonderful mentor that provided plenty of advice but also encouraged me. Your energy is contagious and I was always fascinated with our conversations. Thank you Jill! It was also great to connect with the other women of the #EQxDV “Plus One” Scholarship cohort, whom are brilliant and inspiring. The people that I met at the symposium, some of which are also NOMA members, provided great insight to what I wish to continue working on or pursue. I look forward to attending the symposium in the future and reconnect with amazing individuals who are changing the game. Opportunities come and go, and we must learn to take them. It truly comes a long way when just one person provides that gateway. Thank you Diane for sharing this opportunity of applying for the #EQxDV “Plus One” Scholarship to an event that would impact my life and career.

#EQxDV “Plus One” Scholarship Winners and Mentors - (Left to Right) Taylor Holloway, Jill Bergman, Olga Bracamontes, Frances Choun, Maggie Gaudio, Meghana Joshi, Mani Farhadi, Saskia Dennis-van Dijl, Itria Licitra. (Patricia Ramallo not pictured) Photo credit: Jordan A. Lim.

#EQxDV “Plus One” Scholarship Winners and Mentors - (Left to Right) Taylor Holloway, Jill Bergman, Olga Bracamontes, Frances Choun, Maggie Gaudio, Meghana Joshi, Mani Farhadi, Saskia Dennis-van Dijl, Itria Licitra. (Patricia Ramallo not pictured) Photo credit: Jordan A. Lim.

#EQxDV "Plus One" Voices: The More You Do, The More You CAN Do


December, 2014. Barely coming out of the recession, I was working on commercial/ light industrial projects as an independent architectural consultant while balancing raising my two daughters, fourteen and eight at the time. Although architecture as a profession was clawing its way up from the Great Housing Depression, not everyone was employed to maximize their abilities. Being an immigrant woman of color, a mother, and a recent transplant from Pasadena to Irvine, I didn’t have the network and resources I needed to connect with companies that aligned with my interests. At that point, I was not a member of AIA Orange County yet. One fine day, while surfing the internet for current and relevant articles on architecture, I came across Rosa Sheng, and the initiative (originally known as) “The Missing 32%”. That was the straw I was looking to grasp, and I haven’t looked back ever since. 

#EQxDV Plus One Scholarship Recipients and Mentors

#EQxDV Plus One Scholarship Recipients and Mentors

This year, I was selected to participate in the “Plus One” scholarship program for 2018 Equity by Design Symposium. In celebration of the #EQxDV 5 year founding anniversary, Equity by Design paid it forward with five “Plus One” scholarships for students and emerging professionals to attend the symposium, and connect with five EQxD Mentors/ Champions to share insights on their careers in the built environment. My fellow “Plus One” cohorts were Olga Bracamontes, Taylor Holloway, Maggie Gaudio, and Itria Licitra. We were each paired with a mentor, and mine was Mani Ardalan Farhadi.


Mani and I have known each other virtually for the past year, bonding over topics related to archimoms (mothers in the profession of architecture) and equitable future in the profession. She is a Senior Facilities Planner at Stanford School of Medicine, “Thought Leader” with Equity by Design, “Citizen Architect” formerly on the Los Gatos Union School District Board, Publicist at AIA Silicon Valley’s Women in Architecture Committee, and former blog editor at the Iranian American Women Foundation. It was a perfect mentor-mentee pair, with similar (and several!) work and life integration/ challenge parallels.

What we see is that the gap between white men and women has narrowed, but meanwhile the gap between white men and people of color has gotten wider over time,
— Annelise Pitts, AIA, (The 2018 Equity in Architecture Survey Encourages Industry Soul-Searching, Metropolis Magazine, November 13, 2018, Lydia Lee)

As a volunteer for the survey preparation and an AIA member taking the survey, this was a surreal moment where I was part of past, present and future of an equitable profession. Reality in the shape of graphs stared at me, and I wondered, why the denial? More data followed, showing how women of color with a master’s degree in architecture will earn significantly less than a white male with a bachelor’s degree in architecture. 

Natalie Tse, a presenter of “Building an Equitable Workplace from the Bottom Up”

Natalie Tse, a presenter of “Building an Equitable Workplace from the Bottom Up”

I attended a break out session titled “Building an Equitable Workplace from the Bottom Up”, and listened to Natalie Tse share her story of juggling caregiving and a career as a structural engineer, while also being the cofounder of SE3 Project (geared towards equitable future in Structural Engineering). Natalie’s story of Asian upbringing and the need for self-care resonated with me. As a mother of two, with a full-time job,the Chair of Women in Architecture Committee for AIA Orange County, as well as an ARE test taker, I admit that self-care is on the bottom of my list. Post symposium, I am rethinking self-care, and have made a promise to myself to never let my sleep or health suffer for anything.

During lunch break, the courtyard at the San Francisco Art Institute was filled with the energy and diverse voices of architecture, who were ready to transform the future of the profession. We networked, exchanged contact information, shared our stories, and wished each other success in our chosen paths. We got lunch and broke out into smaller groups.

Mani and I shared our backgrounds and stories. Within minutes into the conversation, Mani gave tips on how to handle performance reviews and negotiate for promotions/ pay raises. She explained how to prepare a folder with printed material and communication showcasing my accomplishments throughout the year, document over-time hours, and all examples that demonstrate going above and beyond my job duties. She advised me to do market research, be assertive, and acknowledge what I deserved without hesitation. Unfortunately I had just finished my review before the symposium, but there is always next year! I am so grateful for this unique experience. Mani is everything I would like to be as an archimom down the lane, willing to share her struggles, her triumphs, and her journey.

Later in the afternoon, I attended the breakout session “Chart Your Path” with Lilian Asperin (left) and Jill Bergman (right). This session integrated work, life, and everything that requires strategic mapping of professional development. Lilian shared her story (I Unsubscribed), and her visual mapping method using analogue tools (post-its!) to find patterns that guide your decision making. Jill shared how you can add more to who you are with a strategic growth plan. I worked on Jill’s method, and realized that I have a short term goal, a long term goal, but not a vision! This was my biggest take-away from the symposium. Seemingly simple, yet complicated when you sit down with a pen and paper. The path is never linear but the plan is, with the ability to meander and course-correct.

Rosa Sheng’s inspirational keynote at the end of the symposium brought almost everyone to tears, as she shared the story of her archimom’s dinner invitation with Steve Jobs. It was very sentimental, touching, and inspiring at the same time. Networking in the courtyard followed, with everyone sharing their takeaways and influences from the symposium. I made new friends, met my social media friends and influences, and connected with more like-minded people.

The EQxDV Symposium was inspiring and energizing, and there is a renewed fire within my soul to do more, to be more.

Two weeks after the symposium, I have taken my plans and goals more seriously than ever. A lot of thought has gone into the direction I want my career to take. The vision board is still a work in progress, and I know there will be challenges in the years to come as I transition from an actively involved parent to an empty nester to primary care-giving. But, to make this vision my own, and not my employer’s or my mentor’s, will help me become my authentic self and give my heart and soul to what I truly believe in.

When I drove to the symposium, I knew I was joining the Board of Directors for AIA Orange County, but I didn’t have a two-year plan. Post symposium, I know what I want to work towards… I am the Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion - aligning with the Strategic Plan developed by AIA Orange County. In that role, I will be the champion of change and an advocate for equity, or a JEDI Master (Justice, Equity, Diversity & Inclusion) as Rosa Sheng puts it.


"Their goal wasn't to stand out because of their differences; it was to fit in because of their talents.”

- Margot Lee Shetterly, Hidden Figures

This quote sums up what women, people of color, LGBTQIA+ aspire to achieve through an equitable framework for a better future. In an ideal world, nothing other than work ethics and talents should matter. Unfortunately, we need equitable frameworks, knowledge and intercultural intelligence (ICQ) to help dismantle the system barriers that prevent advancement. Architecture is a profession that can benefit from diverse experiences to shape our built communities. No one should feel stifled because of their gender, color or race. Let the learnings from the symposium empower us to seek  champions and pay it forward by mentoring the next generation. 

My tweets from the symposium: @meghanaira 

My Instagram story from the symposium: @meghanaira 


If you liked this post, please view the other posts here:

#EQxDV “Plus One” Voices: Speaking Up is Hard

#EQxDV “Plus One” The More You Do, The More You Can Do

#EQxDV "Plus One" Voices: How one day can impact your life

#EQxDV: "Plus One" Voices: Belonging Together

#EQxDV “Plus One” Voices: Change starts with Conversation and Community