In October I had the honor of attending the 2016 Equity by Design Symposium as a thought leader. I worked alongside Caroline James, Renee Cheng and Neelanjana Sen on our session “Being an Agent of Change.” Neelanjana was our session facilitator, which we needed with over 100 people signed up to hear from us. Caroline, Renee and I each shared concrete examples from our own work about instances when we’d been able to affect change. Caroline spoke about organizing the petition to recognize Denise Scott Brown for her role in the 1991 Pritzker Prize while Renee shared her experiences integrating licensure into architecture school at the University of Minnesota and hopefully beyond. I spoke about how I introduced hackathons at Payette and how we’re using them is changing the way we collaborate across teams and background. Each of us wanted to share the scales at which we work to help the audience understand different paths to becoming an agent of change – you don’t need to wait to be asked, there is opportunity in the smallest moments (and in the big moments!)
Because we wanted to empower our audience and encourage them to think about ways they could influence change immediately, we shared our experiences quickly and then broke our 100 participants into small groups. We organized the groups around the research topics covered in the Equity by Design survey; finding the right fit, professional development, pay equity, work-life and beyond architecture. As I walked around the courtyard at the San Francisco Art Institute, I heard some common themes emerge. Every group I passed discussed the importance of transparency – from their firm, their leadership and the AIA. Transparency as a core value is something I’ve always believed in, but to hear how important it is to so many people across generations and experience levels, really hit home. I also heard a number of groups discussing the importance of defining their values and figuring out how those align with their work. Over and over I heard groups conclude that they didn’t want their personal identity and value system to diverge from their professional one. Because of the size of our audience, we didn’t get to hear from each group as they came to their conclusions, but it was clear everyone in the courtyard felt urgency to their conversations and motivated to bring about change.
Many of the other symposium attendees asked me questions about Payette’s hackathons – how we structured them, what were they about, what did we learn and more. Each conversation was different, but I’m happy to say we have stories and resources available right here on our Payette blog. If you are curious about the firm’s experiences with hackathons, you can read about it here.
Throughout the symposium we heard early findings from the Equity by Design survey, which Wanda Lau of ARCHITECT dives in to here. One of my favorite parts of the symposium was Kat Gordon’s keynote speech late in the afternoon. Gordon is a creative director and started the 3% Conference, which is focused on gender equity in advertising. In 2011 only 3% of creative directors were women and today 11% of creative directors are women. They are making huge strides to close the gender gap. In her speech she spoke about being insatiably curious about inequity and the numbers behind it. Asking questions can change many conversations. She also shared that the 3% Conference has developed a document of 100 micro actions that individuals can implement immediately. Seems like it’s time to develop a similar list for architecture. Her speech reminded me of a favorite quote from one of my theatre professors that I have shared on Twitter before: be bold, be daring, be brave! My professor always said this with such gusto during rehearsals where we were on the brink of breakthrough. Given the energy at the Symposium and all the conversations Equity by Design has helped initiate, I think we’re on a similar brink – are you willing to be bold, daring and brave, too?