What I Learned at the Equity by Design Symposium

Earlier this month, I participated in The Missing 32% Project’s Equity By Design Symposium in San Francisco. The group’s third symposium, this year’s topic was “Knowledge Discussion, Action!” This hugely popular conference was sold out in early September, with a waiting list of over 50 people.

The symposium started off to the applause of women like Pamela Tang, who is just one of the missing 32 percent to return to the profession. Her son, now grown, encouraged her to fulfill her dream of becoming an architect. Rosa Sheng, chair of the Missing 32% Project, quoted Emma Watson’s compelling speech as the new United Nations Women Goodwill Ambassador:



Keynote speaker, Emily Grandstaff-Rice, 2014 President of Boston Society of Architects/AIA, wanted us to talk frankly about inequity. As the creator of the Architecture Does Matter initiative, she challenged us to be bold and explicit, asking ourselves, why does equity in architecture matter?

Diversity in architecture

So why does equity in architecture matter? A breakout session addressed this question by showcasing firms that have achieved diversity. One firm was a strong example of how powerful a woman-owned firm could be, while another admitted that they still have a long way to go.

What does achieving diversity actually do? Will it bring back the missing 32 percent? Or by achieving diversity, can we begin to strive for a more balanced profession—one where the work-life balance is more equalized, where we can somehow reduce that expectation that you can only excel by working 70-hour weeks?

Designing a more flexible path

In recent years, NCARB has made great strides to make the licensure process more flexible—for women and men.

  • Interns can now document IDP experience beyond six months and up to five years!
  • We are moving forward with proposals to streamline and overhaul the IDP.
  • The new ARE retake policy was reduced from six months to 60 days.
  • You can now earn IDP experience straight out of high school, regardless of the project’s duration.
  • With the Emerging Professional’s Companion, you can earn 600 core hours of IDP credit—even if you’re in between jobs.
  • Interns can report hours on the go with our free mobile app, which is now available on Google Play!
  • Extensions are also available for the birth or adoption of a child, a serious medical condition, or active military service.

While these changes may not directly impact diversity in the profession, they can help aspiring architects with different backgrounds and experiences get licensed sooner. Maybe even return to the profession they once held so dear.

About the Author

Kimberly Tuttle is the Outreach Manager, Internship + Education at NCARB. In this position she helps support and guide the education and internship continuum as it evolves with the architecture profession. Tuttle holds a Master of Architecture degree from Norwich University in Northfield, VT. She is licensed to practice architecture in the state of Maine, where she has worked for the past eight years. She is a member of the American Institute of Architects, serving as an associate director of the AIA Maine Board of Directors from 2011-2014, and now as the Emerging Architects Mentoring Workshops Chair for AIA|DC. She holds the NCARB Certificate for national reciprocity. You can find Kimberly on Twitter at @kimberlyrtuttle.