Understanding Our Differences, Celebrating Our Uniqueness: American Institute of Architects

How are women and people of color helping architecture evolve?

Sherry Snipes, director, Diversity & Inclusion, American Institute of Architects • “People of different backgrounds put a diverse lens on the creative process by—consciously or subconsciously—creating designs that reflect individual influences. For example, a woman may design an entryway with safety in mind, or a person of color may have different cultural experiences that influence his or her designs. In essence, diversity of backgrounds creates a more robust canvas, which makes a richer, more engaging public experience.”

Desa J. Sealy, Acting deputy commissioner of the U.S. General Services Administration’s Public Buildings Service • “The profession has really evolved to the point where architects of color are a driving force and not sitting in the second chair on larger projects. A beautiful example of this is the all-minority team leading the design of the National Museum of African American History and Culture, with Phil Freelon as the architect of record; David Adjaye, a world-class architect; and Max Bond’s firm, DavisBrodyBond Architects and Planners. So we’re seeing wonderful examples of great architecture, with architects of color having an opportunity to emerge.”

Kathy Denise Dixon, AIA, NOMA, LEED AP BD+C,
principal, K. Dixon Architecture, PLLC;
first vice president / president elect, National Organization of Minority Architects • “In the past, [architecture] was referred to as ‘a gentleman’s profession.’ Today, with increasing numbers of women and people of color in the profession, ideas and design aesthetics are slowly changing to include greater social perspective and cultural input. Better efforts to include diverse community voices in the design process have helped the architectural industry evolve into a profession that is more reflective of the many facets of our society.”

Tiffany Millner, AIA, NOMA, project manager, JKR Partners, LLC • “Architecture is one of the slowest industries to welcome diversity, although it is a discipline charged with providing shelter or spaces that respond to human need. As the population continues to grow and communities begin to enter stages of decay, the design industry should develop a culture of women and minority professionals that will have the sensitivity and ability to provide a voice in response to the needs of the community.”

Suman SorG, FAIA, principal, Sorg Architects • “As traditional barriers in the profession are broken down, architecture gains from the inclusion of more and different viewpoints and value systems, especially those of women and minorities. Workplace environments in the realm of architecture also gain from greater female participation, because women tend to work more collaboratively and in an inclusive manner, which enriches the design process.”

Photograph by Fábio Câmara

Join the Diversity Woman Community

Join a network of career-oriented women and use the member directory to see all the members in your community and find world class mentors. Access exclusive leadership development packages to help you achieve your career goals. Work With Coaches. Take Career Development Courses, and much more.