#31Days31Voices was a month-long initiative by Design Stri and Epistle Communications that aimed to bring a diversity of perspectives from South Asian womxn into the global dialogue on architecture, and design, and urbanism.
We asked designers in various fields and stages of their life to speak on topics ranging from professional advice and design inspiration, to womxn representation and challenges faced in the AEC industry. Have a look below to hear what they had to say! Scroll even further to get the BTS on how this series came together, and for an introduction to #DSVoices.
We hope these features inspired you as much as they inspired us! If at any point you thought, "Wow, there are a lot more people here than I expected", then you're right- we were very pleased to go beyond our "31 Voices" target and feature around 40 women and a couple men too! This couldn't have happened without the massive effort that the Epistle team put in with us to reach out to anyone and everyone we could to get this project going.
It took a couple of months just to plan the campaign: we compiled a list full of candidates, positions, firms, and contact info for all the features and cold emailed all of them to ask if they would participate. To our surprise, many responded with enthusiasm and very generously offered the most inspiring responses and materials for their post.
On the other hand, a couple women also felt uncomfortable participating in the campaign. While some felt that highlighting gender in the profession was unnecessary, others felt that the campaign wasn't getting to those who faced the worst of sexism; the marginalized groups facing dire socio-economic conditions and patriarchal brutality. And, they're right. While the two of us on Design Stri have had our own obstacles as we're sure many of the women we feature do, there's still a lot to unpack and a long way to go to truly shine a light on the inequality that exists in the most vulnerable communities. What we can say is, we're dedicated to getting there by growing this community larger so that we can reach those people, one story at a time. Our email and DMs are always open for anyone who wants to share their story on our page.
So what did we ask about our features anyway?
What is the best professional advice you've gotten and want to pass on?
How did you become interested in design and architecture?
What is the biggest challenge in your job/industry right now?
Discuss the representation of your culture or womxn in your industry.
Alt: Do you believe campaigns like this make a difference? Do they shine the spotlight on conversations that are missing, or further deter them?
What are you currently pursuing and what do you like about it?
Describe a defining moment or project in your professional life.
Have you come across gender bias in the workplace? How do you confront it?
How do you identify? How would you rather be identified by peers/media? An architect/designer, a woman architect/designer, or something else? Explain why.
What would you say? Each feature was asked to pick one question and record a one minute video or a 250-word response on it. The results were eye-opening! Without repeating too much of the answers, here were some of our takeaways on the most common questions answered:
Most Common Professional Advice?
1. Be a bad-ass! Many women said being fearless, bold, and putting your work out there to speak for itself rather than waiting to get noticed was the best way to move forward in the profession.
2. The path to progress isn't the same for everyone. Some of our features found huge success in moving laterally to tangential professions and letting their interests unfold naturally outside of the predetermined "architecture path"
Most Commonly Viewed Challenge in the Industry?
The lack of urgency to build sustainably and to seek sustainability-focused professionals to guide architecture.
The Representation of Womxn?
While many agreed that there were a growing number of women in schools and junior levels, there is a gross under-representation of women in senior and leadership levels, on construction sites, and in architecture media
Identifying as a "Woman Architect" vs an "Architect"?
Answers varied on this one- 50% of women feel that their gender has nothing to do with their achievements, and rightly questioned why men don't get asked this question. The other 50% of women said they call themselves women architects with pride, paying heed to the struggles women in the industry have gone through. They also emphasized that femininity in architecture encourages collaboration, nurturing of a team and building, and overall healthier work environments.
And that's a wrap :) If you're interested in making your voice heard, apply to be featured in our new series #DSVoices.