Celebrating Women in Architecture

I am so excited to host the AIA South Dakota blog for the month of December. What a great way for us to connect as a profession and advance the dialogue about architecture in our state.  This month’s blog theme is focused on a topic I am passionate about: celebrating women in architecture. This topic is a small part of a larger conversation about equity in architecture related to the spaces we design, but also the people designing them.

AIA National engages in multiple initiatives to promote equity, diversity, and inclusion within the profession and this has also translated locally to the statewide South Dakota chapter. For example, the 2018 AIA South Dakota convention featured more women and minorities as speakers and presenters than ever before. The evening keynote presenter, Tamara Eagle Bull, was a 2018 Whitney M. Young Jr. Award winner in part for her work as an advocate for culturally relevant and responsible design in contemporary Native American architecture. As a chapter, we should be proud of some of the steps we have made and continue to ask the hard questions and engage in the tough conversations.

A 2016 survey by Equity by Design found that women represent approximately 45% of students enrolled in NAAB-accredited architecture programs, but they account for only 31% of architectural staff, and 20% of principals and partners in AIA member-owned firms. These numbers are even more staggering for other minorities practicing architecture. Similar numbers have been found from research by other organizations. While compensation equality is improving, there is still data to show that women are at times promoted less often and paid less for the same work done by men. Most importantly, I hope we can continue to make strides towards eliminating the large gap between the percentage of women graduating with architecture degrees and those who remain part of the profession into the later part of their careers.

I wonder how South Dakota compares? It is hard to know, especially since until the recent founding of the Department of Architecture at SDSU, so many of us are transplants as graduates of architecture programs outside of South Dakota. Based on my basic calculation, we have fewer than 40 licensed female architects living and practicing in South Dakota. This number has increased drastically in recent years, which is encouraging. This is in part why I want to celebrate women in architecture this month. There are women who have paved the way for many of us currently in the early to middle part of our careers as architects. Each week this month will feature a profile of a woman in architecture in South Dakota and a guest female writer posting about a topic they are personally interested in. There may also be a few guest writers about the topic of equity in design more broadly. Please let me know if you have interest in contributing. Over the next month, I hope you join me in celebrating women in architecture in South Dakota.

If you are interested in learning more about women and equity in architecture, take a look at the resources provided below.


AIA Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Links


Recommendations from AIA’s Equity in Architecture Commission

Diversity in the Profession of Architecture – Key Findings – 2015

Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Commission – Executive Summary

Iowa Women in Architecture

Equity by Design

Equity by Design Website

Equity by Design – Full Report

About Tamara Eagle Bull

Bureau of Labor Statistics

4 Replies to “Celebrating Women in Architecture”

  1. This is wonderful. Thank you, Sara!

    As AIA SD president, I get to see a lot of the early stages of what AIA National is working on. They recently posted a Guide for Equitable Practices and it’s being disseminated slowly (I have only seen the first few chapters). I can’t wait until it hits the streets – I’m assuming the big roll-out will happen during one of the national conventions/events.

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