Last year I attended my first Big Sibs conference. While I am the oldest of five children, “Big Sibs” has nothing to do with my immediate family. As AIA Baltimore grew to a chapter of over 1,000 members we earned “Big Sibs” status nationally, joining 18 other local components as one of the largest chapters in the country. It was a fantastic milestone for us to achieve and has allowed us to develop a closer relationship with big chapters like New York, Philadelphia, and more.
What struck me most about that Big Sibs meeting was all the fantastic leadership in the room and that the vast majority of people in that room were women. Here were the people in charge of the largest AIA chapters in the country and they weren’t old men with tiny glasses and turtlenecks. The leaders of AIA were women.
A few weeks ago, I had the chance to connect with many of the people I met at the Big Sibs conference at the AIA Leadership Summit. Once again, I was impressed by the number of women leaders in the room, including AIA National President Elect Kimberly Dowdell and CEO Lakisha Woods. It was at the conference that I learned about how 42% of architecture graduates are female, while only 18% of licensed architects are women, nationwide. However, a big step towards creating more equity in the profession occurred last week: NCARB announced it was stopping the ARE rolling clock!
I know many women who started their exams and did not finish before having a baby, which caused them to put tests on hold. As a result of the rolling clock, their tests expired. If they wanted to get licensed they would have to start testing all over again! The clock discouraged these women from finishing their exams and become licensed architects. I am so glad that AIA advocated to eliminate the rolling clock and this hurdle that disproportionally affects women and minorities.
Progress is happening! Since March is Women’s History Month, I want to take a moment to celebrate how far we have come as a profession to empower women architects. We have a ways to go, but we are moving towards a new architecture…one that should leave no one behind.
At our old chapter house we had a wall of pictures of past presidents, in order of their time of service. The vast majority were pictures of white men. However, the pictures changed as they literally turned the corner in the room, as black and white photos turned to color and the photos began to show more women and people of color. We no longer have that wall of pictures, but it is important to remember where we were and where we want to go.
One of the actions in our strategic plan is to diversify our leadership. Our board is planning on developing a Task Force to work on defining what diversity means for AIA Baltimore. In order to do so, we need a diverse group of people to champion it! Please join us! The more diverse voices we have involved the stronger we can be!
Martina Reilly, AIA LEED AP BD+C
2023 AIA Baltimore President