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Getting Beyond Checking the Box

Posted By Administration, Friday, July 3, 2020
Updated: Monday, July 13, 2020

It is an understatement to say that 2020 has been a tumultuous year.  Current events are saturated with global socioeconomic upheaval and every news channel you watch is stacked with stories about social unrest and civil protests.  I am writing this as a way to share some takeaways I’ve gained during discussions about diversity in the workplace.  This topic is as relevant to our industry as any other.  I am not an expert.  I’m not considered a minority and don’t pretend to know “what it’s like” when I haven’t lived in anyone else’s shoes other than my own.  I do however have common sense to recognize the issue and a desire to understand how we, as an industry, can be a part of a bigger solution. 

On the first Friday of every month, my firm holds our titled staff meetings (Associates, Sr. Associates, Principals).  For June, our group shared  NOMA’s (National Organization of Minority Architects) study of diversity in the practice of Architecture.  On June 26th, I attended an AIA Large Firm Roundtable webinar titled “Meaningful Action towards Minority Inclusion in Architecture & Design.”  I’ve found both of these conversations to be humbling.  This overview of the architecture profession as a whole, led those of us at my firm to take deeper look inward—how diverse are we?

My firm, like others, has made a public statement about racial injustice on our website.  That is acknowledgement of the issue, but it is only a single step, with many more to be taken in order to fix a problem that is larger than one person, one race, one firm, one organization, and one industry.  We need to think beyond checking a box during hiring practices and RFQ criteria. 

Things that we are actively thinking about:  How is diversity woven into the culture of our business?  Where are we recruiting?   Who are we promoting?  Who are we mentoring and who are our mentors?  Diversity in the workplace can be viewed through different lenses.  Employers and employees view the workplace differently.  Looking beyond the “equal opportunity employer” disclaimer, workplace culture, relationships, and equity are being scrutinized and questioned in new ways.  Employers are being challenged as never before by their employees and community partners about hiring practices, recruiting efforts design firm/engineering firm partnerships and internal firm leadership. 

As an individual, I want to know what I can do to actively promote diversity in the workplace. 

As an industry, I think it is important for our firms to think about the communities we serve.  Seek out and be open to feedback on how to improve the process toward better diversity.  Are your firms your like mine? Are they taking a deeper dive into the conversation about racial equity and workplace diversity? What resources are you using? Please share in the comments below.



Anne McNeely, CDFA, is the  Project Administration Manager for Fentress Architects in Denver, CO.

 She currently serves as the 2020-2021 SDA National Secretary.

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