Rosa Sheng, chairperson of The Missing 32% Project
John Lee Rosa Sheng, chairperson of The Missing 32% Project

The scarcity of women in leadership and prominent design roles in architecture has long been a topic of conversation and contention. As part of its mission to promote diversity and equitable practice in design, The Missing 32% Project (TM32PP) is hosting its third annual symposium, Equity by Design: Knowledge, Discussion, and Action!, on Oct. 18 at the San Francisco Art Institute. Based on the popularity of the past two symposiums, the organization expects a sell-out crowd of 250 attendees for its recently released presentation and speaker agenda.

Organized in collaboration with AIA San Francisco, this year’s symposium will focus on the results of TM32PP’s 2014 Equity in Architecture Survey, which TM32PP chairperson Rosa Sheng, AIA, discussed with ARCHITECT earlier this year. Nearly 2,300 participants nationwide responded to approximately 90 questions on the architecture profession’s challenges to be a vital, relevant, and rewarding industry.

Like the survey, the symposium is organized in three major knowledge sessions: Hiring and Retention; Growth and Development; and Meaning and Influence. Participants can choose among several 50-minute presentations across the three knowledge sessions, provided that space is available.

The Hiring and Retention knowledge session will focus on the two self-named topics as they relate to gender equity, as well as known pinch points in career- and life-milestones such as licensure and children-rearing.

The Growth and Development knowledge session will focus on the challenges that emerging and established designers face in career advancement, professional development, and understanding often-nebulous firm policies in areas such as compensation and performance evaluations.

The third knowledge session, Meaning and Influence, will look at designer disenchantment, newer models for firm structuring, and improving workplace engagement.

The announcement of the symposium’s agenda follows TM32PP’s Aug. 26 release of one survey result—how architects and designers defined success in their careers. Of the 16 possible choices (see sidebar), the three most common responses were, in order from highest to lowest frequency: work/life flexibility; working on projects of personal and professional significance; and working with a positive, talented, and collaborative team. Social impact and making a difference was a close runner-up for third.

Sheng says that the answers are surprising for two reasons. First, men and women in the survey’s three respondent tracks, or practice groups—sole practitioners, traditional firm, and architecture graduates—honed in on the same three responses from the lengthy list of choices. Second, the responses demonstrate that the majority of design graduates and practitioners are “seeking deeper meaning and satisfaction in their careers and better control of how work and life integrate and segregate,” she says.

The full survey results will be revealed at the symposium. Sheng says five data points per knowledge session, or a total of 15 data points, will be discussed.

The Missing 32% Project was formed in 2011 during an incubator event held by AIA San Francisco’s communications committee. The organization’s name comes from the difference in percentage of female architecture graduates—roughly 50 percent—and the percentage of licensed female architects. The actual statistic varies over time, of course, but the organization has adopted 32 percent for its namesake.

Early results in The Missing 32% Project 2014 Equity in Architecture survey.
Ming Thompson / Atelier Cho Thompson Early results in The Missing 32% Project 2014 Equity in Architecture survey.