My last blog post discussed increased diversity in the workplace by means of expanded influences and alternate educational backgrounds. I was expecting to receive hoards of comments arguing for actual diversity: like race, sex, sexual preferences, or just other salacious statements arguing for increased sex in the workplace.
None of the tens of followers of this blog commented at all! And if you’re reading this post in the future, and there happens to be a comment on the last post – then that was a later comment, so stop being dumb. Furthermore, now that I called you dumb, do not argue that dumb people should be embraced in the workplace as well. And now I’m optimistically making assumptions that you’d actually read other posts after this rambling intro…
The other day my boss suggested we should get an office dog. I then suggested we should get an office cat instead! I have never experienced overt aversions to diversity in the workplace, but he immediately dismissed my statement, and then re-stated his preferences for dogs.
I was flabbergasted. I mean, cats can be office animals too! Sure, most office cats would hide in isolation under the desks and immediately “make-a-break” for the outdoors when the front door gets opened. But the other small percentage of cats would be super-friendly, constantly walk across your keyboard while drafting, and scratch at your construction document papers while you’re attempting to get the set “redlined.”
Now that I have more time to reflect, office cats might actually be inferior to office dogs. This tangent probably hurts my diversity introduction, but actual diversity within firms should not be restricted by alternate opinions or destructive behaviors of people clawing-up construction documents.
- Equity by Design
Studies have shown that diverse workplaces stimulate more creativity, that is why I am grateful that AIA SF and many women architects initiated The Missing 32% project. The Missing 32% project began as a few symposiums addressing the lack of women leadership in the profession of architecture, but has since been re-branded to Equity by Design.
I must admit, I was always hesitant to embrace The Missing 32% project. The 32% refers to the statistics stating there are only 18% of women in senior leadership positions throughout the profession. My graduating class was, sadly, only comprised of 25% women. However, women enrolling in Architecture majors has been steadily expanding. Extrapolating this narrowly-focused data, one could easily believe that 18% of women in leadership is probably expected. Therefore, the focus of the Missing 32% project, in my mind, should’ve been focused more on encouraging women to enroll in architecture school. But most of the endeavors were surrounding how to preserve women in the profession, and bolstering exclusive women-oriented ambitions. There became a proliferation of Women-Only Architect Clubs,1 and somes firms even touted being Exclusively-Women Owned and Operated.
I should state, I consider myself a feminist. Oftentimes the word ‘feminist’ has misconceived notions. But the word feminist means men and women should have equal social, political, legal, and economic rights. Therefore, I stand for equality. But oftentimes, these Women advocates acted like men were inferior to women.
Women need to be viewed, in the workplace, equivalently to men. But women who think they are superior than men are exacerbating the same non-diversity standards.
This is why I am glad The Missing 32% Project re-branded to Equity by Design. Equity embraces the root of the problem. Whereas, hiring more women just for the sake of hiring more women doesn’t foster forward progress. If you say it slower…Equity BYYYYY Design, it becomes clear that diversity cannot propagate on its own – diversity needs to be designed and nurtured within a company’s culture.
- Diversity in the Workplace
I always believed that women shouldn’t be given priority because they are women. They should be given priority because that particular person is extremely intelligent, yet offers diversity in values and objective opinions. However, this is still not the case. It is troublesome that women are often overlooked for management and leadership positions.
I would like to believe that the 1950’s male-centric mentality has been eliminated, yet the inherent mindset often still lingers – even in millennials. Men today often pride themselves on changing their infants diapers and being “family men” – when men of the past would sip cocktails and not raise a finger to aid in child-rearing. Yet men today still expect the wife to change her last name, allowed the word “man-cave” to enter into English lexicon, and cherish the nuclear family – still the ultimate American Dream.2 It’s still ingrained in us that Men are providers. Men make money. And Women make children (and dinner).
But this idea of “family” becomes a hindrance for diversity within company culture. People want their family to look, act, and share the same ideas as themselves. If people didn’t want miniature replications of themselves – adoptions would be equivalent to reproduction. And If you think I’m being short-sighted because mammals are evolutionarily ingrained to nurture offspring – then pets would never come from “puppy mills.” But people oftentimes want a specific breed of dog that fits within their ideal “family” image. These ideals are fine for nuclear families; however, this mindset becomes troubling when it permeates companies who brand themselves as a “family.”
As a 30 year-old white American male, I can never file a discrimination complaint. Perhaps I might want to complain about not complaining. But I rarely will be excluded, because I will fit within most firm’s vision of a “family.”
My wife works in landscaping, a male-dominated profession – but always has gotten along better with guys than with women. One employer she worked for had dysfunctional management, but she had great co-workers. However, another employer had (seemingly) great management. They viewed themselves as a family and were friends with the employees. However, this became a toxic work environment. Even though she was more experienced, other male co-workers would disregard her opinions towards optimization or efficiency. Her male-co-workers would state antiquated ideals such as, “this is the how we’ve always done it.” She was not trying to change company standards, but simply suggesting better ways to do tasks. However, if another male counterpart would offer similar suggestions (even if they weren’t in a leadership role) they would be completely open to alternate ideas. This sexism occurred because she was a female, but she also didn’t fit within their ideal “family.” Their “family” had become a good old boy’s club. One with defined gender roles, and everything was always done the same way. An intelligent woman in a leadership position was threatening to their quaint status quo.
I have never experienced this overt sexism, and will not pretend to relate. I realize, a white 30-year old heterosexual male complaining about sexism in the workplace is equivalent to Warren Buffet complaining about the costs of clothing at Old Navy. But I have had internal biases against co-workers who haven’t fit within my image of a “family” member. Previously, I ranted (secretly fuming beneath my breath) about the hiring of a former co-worker. He was also a white male – like me! But his personal image, behavior, and upbringing seemed contradictory from mine. I thought he was fucking awful. I thought he was only hired for convenience instead of on merit. However, this bias was quickly upended when he turned out to be extremely talented, friendly, and completely genuine.
- Diversity in Start-Ups
Former Twitter Engineering Manager, Leslie Miley, made headlines for his comments regarding Twitter’s operations. Leslie refused a severance package so that he could speak out about the lack of diversity in the workplace. Leslie is an African-American male, and was in a vast minority of blacks in leadership roles throughout Silicon Valley.
One would assume that young tech-startups would embrace diversity with open arms. Compared to ancient companies, such as GE, young entrepreneurs are more socially-minded. However, this turns out to be a large concern for entrepreneurs. When technology startups are rapidly expanding they don’t try to diversify. This rapid expansion requires additional employees to join their new “family.” Therefore it’s much easier to hire people just like themselves – new friends that they could socially interact with during the long hours of the workday.
Indeed, Diversity in Architecture has become an substantial topic within the profession. You can take the [EQxD] Equity in Architecture survey until April 1, and Even AD Magazine is issuing a Women in Architecture Special Edition. However, I don’t know anyone who is anti-equality or anti-women in Architecture. Yet, our internal biases still propagate into the workplace. Only by consciously acknowledging these biases can we then begin to create diversity in the workplace. But until the distinction of being a woman,3 or man, doesn’t matter – we need to design for equity. Equity by Design.
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1 Or maybe I just got upset when co-workers were going out for drinks after work, but I wasn’t invited – it was only open to other women architects.
2 When I got married, I thought the Government provided extra tax benefits for married couples. Turns out, there is oftentimes a Marriage Penalty. However, there are incentives within our tax structure to have children.
3 Or people who define themselves as archi-moms!