Equity, Diversity & Inclusion

Greetings from the AIA California Office,

As we celebrate Black History Month across the country, it is also important to recognize and celebrate those within the profession who are making an impact. Here at AIA California, Winston Thorne, AIA, is the first Black architect to be the organization’s president; while, at the national level, Kimberly Dowdell, FAIA, is the first Black woman to serve as AIA President in a one hundred-year-long history. And while we know representation matters, it is painfully obvious, the profession still lags tremendously in terms of diversity in this area.

At a time where we know, never has it been more critical to utilize the architect’s unique skills and experience to address the socio and economic factors that have limited underrepresented populations, the percentage of licensed architects in the United States who are Black is still dramatically low. AIA CA is actively working to create opportunities for the architectural profession in California to better reflect the population it serves.

It’s critical for the profession to be accessible to all who dream of being an architect. For firms, a diverse employee base means a better ability to connect with diverse clients, and access to diverse thinking can elevate problem-solving. The AIA California website outlines six key benefits that diversity brings firms and individuals.

AIA CA is committed to concrete steps that lead to a healthier profession through increased diversity, and through advocacy and engagement are continuing to move our EDI initiatives forward. In 2023, we successfully supported legislation that allows the California Architect Board (Board) to ask licensees to provide demographic information to the Board for the purposes of aiding in our Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) efforts. A small but concrete step in tracking the needs for and possibilities of change with diverse populations. Concurrently, AIA California’s EDI Committee hosted (and will continue in 2024) a series of sessions devoted to “ABC – Architecture, Belonging & Connection.”

EDI is the topic of this year’s Academy for Emerging Professionals Summit on March 16. Featured speakers include Traco Matthews who sits on California’s first Racial Equity Commission and Michael Armstrong, NCARB’s CEO.

However, we know these efforts are addressing the current state and while are important, we must proactively and doggedly support the pipeline into the profession.

Through AIA California’s re-energized California Architecture Foundation, we are developing these initiatives to expose diverse populations to architecture, financially support interest in architecture as a career, and directly impact the future workforce. 

  • A new scholarship to help students who are attending community colleges to stay in school
  • A new statewide internship program, California Architectural Practice Experience Program (capX), will install a paid internship program connecting firms to students. Inclusive of this initiative will be “Job Shadowing” days providing opportunities for students who have never seen the inside of a firm, gain a better understanding of the work of an architect, and increase their ease and comfort level once they obtain an internship
  • The Chester and Diana Widom Architectural Education Scholarship awards funds to Community College students transferring to four-year schools to support tuition costs.
  • Finally, to increase awareness of the field for elementary school students — Architecture By the Book©—a program that facilitates visits to elementary schools by local architectural firms

History is composed of small daily steps. We hope that this year’s actions change diversity and an expansion of those recognized by the field tomorrow.

Have a wonderful week,

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