By Lori Lessem, AIA – Equity Committee Co-Chair
I recently had the opportunity to participate in a STEAM event for young girls and it really struck me how exciting it was to be part of an event geared towards encouraging girls to challenge themselves and explore careers in the sciences. We had a great, diverse group of girls eager to learn about the many possibilities, and an equally diverse group of women professionals there to discuss their careers and experiences. The discussion was terrific, with everyone engaged and sharing.
The girls had insightful questions for the panel, including one that resonated with me: “Did you ever feel like you were being judged?” They were concerned about how to navigate through the negativity that can come with being female and/or a minority in historically male and/or white professions. How can they navigate the negativity to get where they want to be in their professional lives? It is a hard thing, but we (and they) cannot give up, and we cannot turn back. Diversity and equity are critically important to the realization of their dreams and our collective future.
As architects, our profession has touted equity and diversity as being among the top priorities for the future. This is what we must continue to strive for, despite the recent political upheaval and rhetoric that has emerged from the presidential campaign and caused such recent unrest within the AIA as well as the country at large.
This has reminded me why our Equity committee is so important. These recent events and hasty reactions—both for and against—have reinforced that we must continue in our mission to be a more equitable and inclusive profession, aligning with the world and communities that we touch. The number of women and minorities in the architectural profession leaves much to be desired. Obviously it’s beneficial to promote opportunities for growth and jobs, but not at all costs. Promotion of our profession needs to be done while still embracing our diverse cultures and people to the benefit of all.
There is work to be done. Current events suggest we have no time to either pause or take steps backward. We must temper the urge to react in haste, and focus that sense of urgency on positive efforts to change our profession from the inside. We must ensure that our ideals are not abandoned in the current political environment. We need to remind everyone who we are and how we can push forward in a positive way.
AIABaltimore’s Equity Committee gives us a platform to empower, enlighten and encourage those in the profession, and continue to lay the groundwork so that “Equity” becomes something we don’t even think about anymore—it’s the norm. The need for studies to expose the inequities in salaries and how little diversity actually exists will be in the past. This can only happen if we remain engaged and committed.
We have work to do. Let’s make an impact across our communities. We need to continue to engage our communities and the young people who will be our future. As architects, our visions impact communities and individuals every day. We have to be thoughtful and diligent in our mission. We have to be mindful of our future and not take steps backwards. We have to continue to participate and move our profession towards a more equitable and inclusive future. Please join us.