ArchiTalks #17: Three Tools for Change

Welcome to the 17th edition of the ArchiTalk Series. It is a series curated by Bob Borson over at Life of an Architect, where a whole bunch of architectural bloggers all blog about the same topic on the same day. This month’s topic: ‘Tool’. Yup, that’s it. Bob’s left us all to our own devices on how to interpret this word and fashion it into an interesting topic. It didn’t take me long to figure out how to interpret this for me personally: tools for change. Don’t forget to check out the links at the bottom of the post for some amazing posts from other awesome bloggers on the topic of ‘tool’. And without further ado, here are the three tools I have helped to create, and with which I hope to positively impact the profession of architecture.

Women continue to be underrepresented in leadership positions in architecture and there is significant attrition from the profession at critical times in their careers. This situation is compounded by the challenges that women face in our profession today: unconscious cultural bias, the double burden (working full-time and also performing the majority of housework and child care), anytime/anywhere availability, lack of mentors and networking opportunities, the confidence gap, and lack of flexible work environments. Faced with these difficulties it is understandable that over half of women graduates are not practicing today.

Having faced many of these challenges, I believe there is an opportunity to improve the outlook for women by driving cultural change in our profession. In order to reach its full potential, architecture needs to achieve greater diversity in its ranks and be more reflective of our clients and society. Studies show that diverse teams perform better, are more innovative, and achieve greater profitability. In response, I have created several forums that support women in our profession. Through such actions, we can bring about meaningful and positive change for women in architecture. Positive results of my initiatives are already evident with women who have participated taking control of their careers and stepping forward to effect cultural change in their firms. Women are becoming more optimistic about a stronger and enduring profession that has a vibrant future.

women in design- Twin cities

WID Logo

Founded in 2013, Women in Design- Twin Cities (WID, and formally known as Women in Architecture + Design- Twin Cities) is an inclusive community-based initiative for women in all fields related to architecture, engineering and construction. As co-founder and director, I organize and facilitate events and meetings 4-6 times per year, often discussing books such as Lean-In, Women Don’t Ask, and Unfinished Business. We also watch and discuss various Ted Talks or other short videos, such as the Google video on unconscious bias at work. We are currently working on developing a panel discussion on engaging men in equity, with a working title of ‘The Impact of Equity on Innovation, Firm Culture, and Your Bottom Line’. The goals of WID include:

  • Educate ourselves and the community about issues relating to women in design, the AEC professions, and the built environment
  • Provide a forum for information exchange among ourselves and other organizations
  • Empower women designers through recognition and support
  • Encourage diversity and inclusion rather than separatism
  • Promote social responsibility in professional activities
  • Collaborate with other organizations toward common goals
  • Engage proactively, with emphasis on activities discussion
AIA- Minnesota Women in Architecture Committee

AIA Workshop

In 2014 we gained unanimous approval from the AIA-MN Board of Directors to start the AIA-MN Women in Architecture Committee. The committee aims to advance women in leadership positions through advocacy, professional development, and dialogue about cultural change in the profession. The goals of the committee include advocating for women in the architecture profession by:

  • Providing mentorship and networking opportunities
  • Advancing women in leadership positions through advocacy, professional development, and dialog about cultural change in the profession
  • Increasing the visibility of women by celebrating past and present professional contributions
  • Researching issues relevant to the retention of women in architecture and developing best practice recommendations for architecture firms

These goals will be reached through a variety of methods, including:

  • AIA Minnesota convention presentations
  • Mentoring and networking opportunities
  • Research study: focus on retention of local women in the profession
  • Panel discussions
  • Project show-and-tell tours
  • Participation in the AIA Women’s Leadership Summit
archimom blog

ArchiMom Home Page

Yes, that’s right- my hope is that this very blog can be a tool for change in the profession. I started the ArchiMom blog just over a year ago with the hope that it will help support mothers who are facing challenges in the profession and provide a place for open dialogue and discussion. The ‘Amazing ArchiMoms’ posts help to celebrate hard-working moms and tell their story in their own words. My hope is that by writing about issues that working parents face, it will raise awareness and influence positive changes in our profession.

My own challenges as a woman in architecture have inspired me to create these tools, these networks of support, for women in the Twin Cities. Our profession is experiencing significant attrition of women at critical times in their careers. We all know that women architects are essential for a strong and enduring architectural profession. These initiatives I have helped to start will hopefully inspire similar groups across the country that will enable needed change to happen sooner. We must empower women, advocate for them, invest in them, and promote them into leadership roles so our profession may continue to thrive and reflect the diversity of our society. And I intend to do just that with my tools.

Bob Borson – Life of An Architect (@bobborson)

Marica McKeel – Studio MM (@ArchitectMM)
3 Tools to Get Our Clients Engaged and Involved

Jeff Echols – Architect Of The Internet (@Jeff_Echols)
The Best Tool In Your Toolbox

Lee Calisti, AIA – Think Architect (@LeeCalisti)

Lora Teagarden – L² Design, LLC (@L2DesignLLC)
The Tools That Help Make #AREsketches

Jeremiah Russell, AIA – ROGUE Architecture (@rogue_architect)
tools #architalks

Jes Stafford – MODwelling (@modarchitect)
One Essential Tool

Eric T. Faulkner – Rock Talk (@wishingrockhome)
Architools – Mind Over Matter

Rosa Sheng – Equity by Design (@EquityxDesign)
10 Power Tools to Kickstart Equitable Practice

Michele Grace Hottel – Michele Grace Hottel, Architect (@mghottel)
#ArchiTalks 17 “Tool”

Meghana Joshi – IRA Consultants, LLC (@MeghanaIRA)
Tools of an Architect #Architalks 17

Brian Paletz – The Emerging Architect (@bpaletz)
Can we talk?

Michael LaValley – Evolving Architect (@archivalley)
Why An Architect’s Voice Is Their Most Important Tool

Eric Wittman – intern[life] (@rico_w)
it’s ok, i have a [pen]

Brinn Miracle – Architangent (@simplybrinn)
Synergy: The Value of Architects

Emily Grandstaff-Rice – Emily Grandstaff-Rice FAIA (@egrfaia)
Tools for Learning

Jarod Hall – di’velept (@divelept)
Something Old and Something New

Greg Croft – Sage Leaf Group (@croft_gregory)

Jeffrey A Pelletier – Board & Vellum (@boardandvellum)
Helpful tools found within an Architecture blog

Aaron Bowman – Product & Process (@PP_Podcast)
Sharpen Your Tools

Kyu Young Kim – Palo Alto Design Studio (@sokokyu)
Super Tool

Jared W. Smith – Architect OWL (@ArchitectOWL)
Construction: An Architect’s Learning Tool

Keith Palma – Architect’s Trace (@cogitatedesign)
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  1. Jamie Molina

    February 15, 2016


    You are very inspiring, keep up the writing! As a young female Architect preparing to dive head first into starting a family, it seems a little daunting to try and do it all! So it’s nice to hear stories like yours!

  2. Eric Wittman

    February 9, 2016

    It sounds like you’re doing wonderful things and making things happen! So wonderful to hear/read about it Amy!

  3. Michael LaValley

    February 8, 2016

    Amy, I get the feeling that ‘busy’ would be an understatement when it comes to describing your life! I can relate to creating tools in similar ways that you have to help others. I’ve been heavily involved with the AIA for years and it’s provided a great foundation for me to help others. I hope you find it as rewarding as I do.

    I created my blog to help others as well and totally get where you’re coming from. I think trying to help becomes addicting after awhile, haha. It’s the good kind of exhausting though.

    Great post, keep it up!

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