A number of advocacy organizations questioning the ethics of architecture practice in the United States have received a flurry of attention recently. The New York Times commented recently on the San Francisco–based Architects/Designers/Planners for Social Responsibility’s petition to revise the AIA’s stance on solitary confinement and torture. The New York–based Architecture Lobby made waves in 2014 with protests denouncing the continued prevalence of unpaid labor among architects. Before that, Harvard’s Women in Design provoked top figures in the field to take a stance on the failure of the industry’s awards to adequately acknowledge collaboration in 2013.
That last issue, centered around a petition to retroactively award the Pritzker Prize to Denise Scott-Brown, is just one example of an action by one of several recently formed groups in the U.S. principally devoted to addressing architecture’s gender gap. In this new climate of restlessness, Rosa Sheng, founder and figurehead of The Missing 32% Project, has emerged as a particularly salient voice calling for gender equity in architecture at a pivotal moment for the profession.
Founded as a committee of the San Francisco AIA in 2011, Sheng’s project has become exemplary in its reliance on data as a crucial tactic in the fight for equality. The name of the project is already a reminder of the estimated attrition rate of women architects from the workforce after relative gender parity in school. After rolling out studies and workshops locally within the Bay Area, The Missing 32% Project embarked on a campaign to “establish metrics and highlight best practices for achieving gender equity in architectural practice” through a nationwide survey of practicing architects, both male and female.
On Friday, February 27, 2015 at the AIA’s Center for Architecture in New York, Sheng will present the early results of The Missing 32% Project’s survey, and report lessons gleaned from a symposium she organized in the fall, aptly titled Equity by Design. Based on preliminary analysis, Sheng’s findings will highlight important distinctions in how male and female architects are hired and retained differently by employers, negotiate major life events, navigate career development, and perceive their own influence overall. Her talk will be followed by an open discussion, which will be a welcome opportunity to reflect on how efforts towards gender equity in architecture can be rolled out on a more unified national scale in 2015.