We are the AIA

A fresh wave of outrage filled my Facebook feed last night in response to a lack of gender diversity in the recently announced keynote speaker line-up at the upcoming AIA National Convention in Orlando. The roster of speakers lacks diversity, which is a sad, and unfortunately accurate, reflection of the composition of our profession. So while I share the frustration and the disappointment, I have to admit that the outrage, as it was expressed in some of the comments, rankled me.

What was my outrage in response to everyone else’s outrage? For one thing, outrage isn’t enough. Outrage expressed on Facebook is just pixels. And pixels in a bubble at that. But the real thing that bothers me is this discussion of the AIA as if it is something other than ourselves. I have been hearing variations on this comment since I graduated from school:

“The AIA is pretty much worthless. Don't give them your money by joining.”

That, to me, is a cop out. The AIA is our professional organization. It is meant to support us and advocate for us, bring us together as a community and provide opportunities for education and dialogue. Clearly, many are understandably dissatisfied with the work the AIA is doing, but why waste our energy expressing outrage and then turning our backs on the organization meant to represent us? Why not channel this energy into changing the organization? Yes, sharing your concerns on social media and with our elected officials is one way to do this, but guess what? If that’s not working out for you, it may be time to put on the big girl panties and the pink pussy hats and get involved. These missteps by the AIA are not a signal to turn away; they are an invitation to engage. Don’t just join the AIA, vote! And don’t just vote, run!

I am reminded in all of this of Obama’s farewell address. Substitutions [in brackets] are mine, as are italics, for emphasis.

"… change only happens when ordinary people get involved, and they get engaged, and they come together to demand it."

“We weaken [the profession] "when we write off the whole system as inevitably corrupt. And when we sit back and blame the leaders we elect without examining our own role in electing them."

"If something needs fixing, then lace up your shoes and do some organizing."

"If you’re disappointed by your elected officials, grab a clip board, get some signatures, and run for office yourself."

A lack of diversity of all kinds in architecture is our Achilles heel, and if we don’t work together to address it, we will lose the best and the brightest talent to other fields, and we will continue to struggle for relevance in our society.