4wrd Speaking Challenge Winner to Attend AIA Women’s Leadership Summit

posted September 23rd, 2022 in 4wrd

by E4H


women color blocks

4wrd – E4H’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion initiative, hosted the 2nd Annual Speaking Challenge open to E4H emerging women in architecture. It was an opportunity to enhance public speaking and articulate personal thoughts on the 2022 AIA Women’s Leadership Summit‘s (WLS) theme of “Designing Women Into the Code.” The prize of the competition is an all expense paid trip to attend the AIA Women’s Leadership Summit in Silicon Valley, September 28th – October 1st.

The AIA Women’s Leadership Summit states the following regarding their conference theme. Designing Women Into the Code: Codes govern our daily lives–from ethics and behaviors, to technology and design. Codes are evolving, but equalizing the playing field–in academia and in practice–requires substantial institutional and cultural change. By supporting women in the profession, and by working to reduce bias, we help close the gender gap and recode our world.

Krystina Gnuechtal, Assoc. AIA,  Meriet Guirguis, Elyse KillKelley, Sangyoon Park, AIA, and Keara Washburn, presented inspiring and compelling speeches. The audience was extremely impressed by the commitment and conviction of the speakers. As one judge wrote, “It was so amazing to see the talent that we have in our group and the way that each of them sees the future of women in architecture.” The Challenge was truly competitive with close scores from our judges and the crowd vote. The event was attended by nearly 110 employees.

Congratulations to winner Keara Washburn! Keara will attend the AIA Women’s Leadership Summit along with Kristin Dommer, AIA, Senior Associate, Julie Martinez, AIA, RID, LSSGB, Associate, and Architects Foundation Sho-Ping Chin WLS Grant recipient Sangyoon Park, AIA. Thanks to the coaches from the various offices who helped mentor the speakers. E4H is dedicated to furthering the enrichment of our speakers by providing stipends for professional development or memberships of their choice.

4wrd is excited to host additional speaking competitions to continue staff development and career growth.

Below is Keara Washburn’s 4wrd Speech.

Hi my name is Keara Washburn and I’m a project coordinator in the Boston Office. I have backgrounds in both interior design and architecture, and I joined the team at the beginning of June. As a woman and person of color in this industry, I feel very passionate about not only designing women into code, but also including those of all genders and identities to have a voice in this conversation.

Historically, the male figure has been the default model when designing for codes such as reach ranges. However, it’s important to address the needs both visible and non-visible of all users. In addition, we must be thoughtful and considerate of not only the current needs of users, but also future application such as mothers’ room and inclusive restrooms.

Equity by design is crucial for an inclusive future for everyone. The Missing 32% Research project investigates while the male to female ratio graduating with architecture degrees is 50/50, we lose 32% of those female graduates from school to licensure. And why is that?

Women are disproportionally affected by external responsibilities than our male counterparts. The delaying of licensure could be due to a number of reasons including caregiver responsibilities such as childcare or aging family members, career advancement gaps, or not being able to identify with those in leadership positions. The pandemic has only highlighted these effects on women.

While there is an increase in number of women and minorities in our industry, we remain underrepresented. The 2020 AIA demographics report found that 66% of its members identified as being white, 17% did not disclose, and 16 % identified as being underrepresented. Of that 16% my own identity as a female pacific islander accounts for 0.065%. My own identity doesn’t even make up a full percentage.

Everyone accessing healthcare deserves a place that was designed with them in mind. If we want to create architecture for everyone, we must include everyone.

E4H has target goals of representation. Currently, 37% of leadership roles are held by women. However, that drops to around 20% at the partner level. While we are making strides in the right direction, it’s still not enough.

One of the main reasons I chose E4H, is because I saw myself represented in leadership, not only as a woman but also as a person of color. It’s inspiring to know that I have the room and support for growth.

Data suggests that there is a diverse group of talent coming up the pipeline and that there is going to be a shift in our industry. With this shift, there needs to be prioritization of underrepresented groups in leadership positions. We also need to keep up with the pace of change and ensure that we are not doing anything to inhibit it.

Some next steps we could do is have representation on project teams and tackle the education pipeline by exposing our profession to underrepresented groups.

I’m very excited to be an emerging leader and for the future of our industry. While growth and change can be challenging, it’s necessary to evolve and we need to do better.

My question to you all is, how can we continue to foster a supportive and inclusive environment for everyone?

Thank you. 













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