Ethics in practice for an equitable profession

An update for members on sexual harassment policies and protocols

In 2014 the American Institute of Architects adopted a sexual harassment policy for appointed and elected AIA leaders. But what is the Institute doing to reinforce its stance on harassment throughout components, membership, and the profession as a whole?

Part of AIA’s increased emphasis on Core Member Services across components is to ensure a consistent experience for all members. This extends to issues of inclusiveness, culture, and sexual harassment. The accreditation requirement for components will also address these issues, and will require them to comply with AIA National’s harassment policy and adopt its equity, diversity, and inclusion statement. Attendees of recent major AIA events, such as Grassroots, have also been offered training on unconscious bias and sexual harassment, including sessions led by Dr. Shirley Davis, an expert on diversity, inclusion, and workplace strategies. This training has been available to volunteer leaders, CACE representatives, and AIA National staff, as well.

“Our profession faces many challenges,” says 2018 AIA President Carl Elefante, FAIA. “One of them is sustaining a workforce with the talents, ethics, and beliefs to move architecture forward. To do this, we have to resolve our equity, diversity, and inclusion issues.”

AIA’s efforts against sexual harassment within the profession were crystallized in the establishment of the AIA Diversity Council, which was formed in 2011 to confront such issues as the shortage of minority representation in leadership roles, unconscious bias, and sexual discrimination. In 2015 AIA formed the Equity in Architecture Commission, chaired by Emily Grandstaff-Rice, FAIA, to address broader concerns about disproportionate demographics among those in the profession. Its recommendations, which have been adopted by the AIA Board of Directors, are set to be implemented over the next three years.

In 2017, those recommendations were released and the commission's work was assumed by the Board's newly created Equity and Future of Architecture Committee. Co-chaired by Grandstaff-Rice and Rosa Sheng, FAIA, the committee is implementing the commission's recommendations while tackling other equity, diversity, and inclusion issues, as well.

“The goal of the committee is to focus and address the root causes of inequity, rather than fixate on just the symptoms,” says Sheng. “Harassment is the outcome of a culture that has perpetuated race and gender imbalances, and allowed power to be abused. By championing equity, we want to minimize barriers and maximize the potential for success.”

The committee’s current priority is a series of guides on equitable practice. They will address pertinent firm-centric issues such as career progression, leadership development, and work culture.

“Architecture has a long history of abuses of power,” Grandstaff-Rice says, “and this is a moment in which we can work proactively to make this a better profession. That is one point our equity guides will stress: Being collaborative is essential to doing good work, and essential to our profession. Anyone who abuses power erodes that trust and weakens us all.”

“To be relevant and contribute to issues our society faces, we must reflect the people we’re trying to serve,” Elefante says. “The roadblocks that women in the profession face are real, and the work that groups like the Equity and Future of Architecture Committee are doing is not abstract. It’s real, and it’s necessary.”

Learn more about resources to address harassment in your workplace, as well as AIA’s efforts on equity, diversity, and inclusion.

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