Letter to the Editor

UPDATE: Architects protest as no women architect keynote speakers selected for AIA national convention

National Professional Practice
Architects call out AIA for lack of action on diversity. Seen here: The 2017 AIA National Convention will be held at the Orange County Convention Center, in Orland Florida. (Courtesy Mariamichelle/pixabay)
Architects call out AIA for lack of action on diversity. Seen here: The 2017 AIA National Convention will be held at the Orange County Convention Center, in Orland Florida. (Courtesy Mariamichelle/pixabay)

The following letter was sent to the Architect’s Newspaper in response to the announcement of the 2017 AIA National Convention’s Keynote Speakers. Signed by 50 architects, firms, and architecture students, the letter calls for the AIA to take a more meaningful action on advocating for gender equality in the architecture profession.

UPDATE: The AIA has added a special keynote on day three of the conference titled “Anticipate Change – What’s Next in Architecture,” featuring Nóra Demeter (Int’l. Assoc. AIA) of Demeter Design Studio, Michael Ford (Assoc. AIA) of BRANDNU DESIGN, and Cheryl McAfee (FAIA) of McAfee3. The panel will be moderated by Frances Anderton of the weekly radio show DnA.

Where is the Female Representation: shouldn’t we ALL be outraged?

How is it that the AIA could not come up with a single female architect as a keynote speaker at the convention? If you have not seen the AIA’s keynote speaker list for their newly rebranded national convention, it is shocking to see that out of the seven speakers listed only one is a woman (and she is not even an architect).

In what seems to be a string of missteps by the AIA, this announcement of the keynote speaker list for the national convention is not surprising. AIA CEO Robert Ivy and AIA President Russ Davidson recently apologized to the architecture community for their ill-conceived letter of support of the Trump administration which does not respect women and minorities. Ivy and Davidson, also, announced a nationwide listening tour to find out what the AIA membership wanted. After additional criticism of that response, Ivy and Davidson produced a video apologizing for a second time and promised to commit $1 million to boost diversity in architecture. The financial support is a weak attempt to cover their errors in judgment and misrepresenting the desires of AIA membership, specifically, and all architects in general.

The AIA currently dedicates a small corner of the national website to the Equity in Architecture Commission with a generically worded “Diversity and Inclusion Statement.” The stunningly short statement totals 175 words, including title and dates, and merely ensures rights that are already protected by federal law. Apparently, the apologies are only lip service. The organization continues to not put equity issues front and center in ALL of its programming and events. Why are they only TALKING about change and not MAKING change?

In their annual conference literature, the AIA states “it’s about tapping into the collective intellect and entrepreneurial spirit of architects and design professionals who are shaping our industry.” However, their actions speak volumes against such sentiments. The keynote panel is in no way representative of our collective intellect.

If the AIA was serious about changing its image—and we do not mean a superficial marketing strategy—then they should lead the profession and put forward a panel of keynote speakers that is reflective of the diversity in architecture. When the AIA states that they are committed to “broadening equity, diversity, and inclusion in the profession of architecture through dedicated leadership,” we must ask where are the diverse leaders?

A recap of the AIA leadership as it relates to equity issues can be found in the 2012 Places article by Gabrielle Esperdy titled, “The Incredibly True Adventures of the Architectress in America.” The article thoroughly documents the history of the AIA’s refusal to act on behalf of women members. Particularly depressing is the fact that women pressed for these same issues of equality in the 1970s. The latest Equity by Design report seems to indicate that while our schools continue to graduate almost 50% women into the field, keeping women once they have entered the profession has reached a point of stagnation.

We are calling for a more active and aggressive stance on equity by the AIA, starting with the National Convention keynote speaker line-up. Following this, we request more diverse representation on the AIA board and presence for the Equity by Design initiative on the AIA National website.

If you are equally outraged by the lack of female representation for keynote speakers at the AIA convention we encourage you to reach out to your AIA boards and the national organization including CEO Robert Ivy (robertivy[at]aia.org). Tell them the following:

1 – That you are outraged

2 – Who you would like to see as a keynote speaker

Making the AIA leadership aware of our outrage and changing the demographics of the keynote speakers at one convention is clearly not a solution to the larger issues of systemic homogeny in the organization. But it is a step in the right direction and will show the leadership that we expect more than platitudes on issues of diversity and inclusivity within the AIA.

Signed

Mo Zell, RA, Women in Design – Milwaukee

Jori Ann Erdman, AIA, NOMA, LEED AP

Ali Kopyt, AIA, NCARB

Angie Tabrizi, AIA, LEED AP BD+C

Ursula Twombly, AIA

Patricia Frost, AIA

Allyson Nemec, AIA, LEED AP, Past President AIA WI

Paula Verboomen, AIA

Kristin Dufek, AIA, EDAC, LEED AP

Alexa Wojciechowicz

Angela Kehl, Allied ASID

Taruna Gupta

Ganesh Nayak

Barbara Hughes

Ellie Lange

Shannon Criss

Marie-Alice L’Heureux, PhD, AIA, NCARB

Kathryn e. Martin-Meurer

Ai Csuka

Lyssa Olker

Bridget Owen

Erica Chappelear

Vaishali Wagh RA, LEED AP

Kathy Osowski

Rosheen Styczinski, PLA  FASLA

Sara A. Maas

Patricia S. Algiers, ASID, CNU-Accredited

Maria Wenzel, Associate AIA

Nicole Craanen

Nikole Bouchard

Rachel Momenee

Nancy Chu

Layla Qarout, LEED GA

Brian K Schermer

Mark Keane

Linda Keane, AIA, NCARB, (office of STUDIO 1032)

Emma Price

Don Hanlon

Matt Rinka AIA NCARB (and firm of Rinka Chung)

Chris Cornelius

Mike Utzinger, RA, PE

Karen W. Plunkett, AIA

Jacki Kinney

Laura Gainer

Nader Sayadi

Kyle Reynolds

Jennifer L. Lehrke, AIA, LEED AP, NCARB

Melinda Pogwizd

Related Stories