As we start a brand-new year, the team at Feldman Architecture wants to continue to share our progress, setbacks, challenges, and successes with our community to both hold ourselves accountable, as well as to join in on the knowledge sharing that makes larger scale meaningful progress attainable. In 2021, our JEDI (Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion) Committee was hard at work improving processes, learning, and growing. Below, find updates and as always, please feel free to reach with comments, questions, and suggestions! We’d love to hear from you.
In 2021, FA’s JEDI committee focused on two main initiatives. First, we hired DEI consultant Humanize Us All to perform an operational audit of our studio, analyzed and learned from their findings, and reacted to and/or implemented their recommendations. Secondly, our committee completed a deep dive into researching internship, mentorship, and volunteer opportunities and encouraged participation from interested staff, with the goal of identifying a marquis program to align with to support the next generation of designers and architects from specifically underrepresented communities.
In spring of 2021, the Humanize Us All team issued an anonymous survey to all FA staff that provided an extensive list of questions about their personal experiences, opinions, and suggestions in the categories of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, Belonging, Humanizing Culture, and Policies + Procedures at Feldman Architecture. HUA then used this data to tailor a presentation to first our JEDI Committee and Executive Team, and later our entire staff with findings, suggestions, successes, and areas for improvement.
The audit began by identifying our strengths as a firm, acknowledging that the best foundation for growth comes from leveraging preexisting strengths. For instance, reporting found that the vast majority of staff feel respected and valued by the organization, and additionally feel like they belong at FA. 100% of FA staff members believe that the organization has a growth mindset, and every FA staff member identified that gender diversity was important to them.
Afterwards, our committee completed a deep dive into HUA’s full Humanity Audit, compiling a list of recommendations to focus on in 2022. These were divided into three categories: Quick To-Do’s, 2022 Goals, and 2022 discussion points. The Quick To-do’s included a task list for easily accomplished items such as posting all important information and announcements to our intranet, ensuring all staff complete a mandatory Sexual Harassment training, reviewing our office protocols, and reminding staff they have the option to put their pronouns in internal and external communications/signatures.
A few of the 2022 Goals and Talking Points include:
- Integrate diversity into our selection process for prospective clients and projects.
- Finalize a database of minority-owned and value-aligned businesses and share internally and with peers.
- Solidify and redistribute an updated and anonymous complaint form with all staff.
- Research and begin the process to enact affinity groups at FA.
These goals were then presented to our staff at a 2022 kick off meeting, with the hopes of encouraging feedback and participation.
This presentation was accompanied by the introduction of a handful of volunteer and mentorship opportunities that our staff have the option of participating in this year. So far, we have two staff members volunteering for the Spring semester of the SF ACE Mentorship program, in which they meet weekly with local high school students interested in potentially pursuing a career in architecture, construction, or engineering, and help them with a relevant design project. We have also identified SF NOMA’s project pipeline camp as a volunteer opportunity this summer. Additionally, our internship program will expand to work with SFUSD Career Pathways to welcome a local, high school intern into our office for the summer months. Lastly, this year we are excited to become a NOMA President’s Circle Corporate Member, benefitting from the organization’s events, DEI training, and resources.
As we turn the corner into 2021, our team wanted to provide an update on the work we are doing behind the scenes to uphold our commitment to racial justice. Last fall, Feldman Architecture solidified a Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (JEDI) Committee, consisting of five FA staff members, which since then has been meeting weekly. In the last quarter of 2020, the committee lead an internal analysis of Feldman Architecture’s procedures, handbook, hiring processes, and submitted a series of recommendations to improve upon these and other areas of our firm as a whole. Our internal assessment felt like a logical place to start, and also lead us to a few important realizations. We first made the decision to enlist help with our DEI efforts from a third party – we are in the beginning steps of working with Humanize Us All to complete an internal assessment of our firm, and engage in an all staff and leadership DEI training that will help us improve as an organization, reflect on our firm culture and mission, and make our efforts to engage our community more impactful.
The committee also realized that as a passionate group filled to the brim with ideas and lofty goals, we will best serve our mission with focused work in specific areas. This quarter, the JEDI Committee will be investing significant time and resources in educational outreach and internship programs for BIPOC students. As a start, the committee will be mentoring a high school student connected with our firm through AFSF, and will be exploring design, software, sustainability, and other aspects of what it means to work in architecture with her. We are also working on crafting summer internship opportunities, as well as beginning to engage in pro bono work at an East Bay school.
At the end of the quarter, we will follow up with another blog post to report our findings, share our progress, and hold ourselves accountable. Please feel free to reach out with comments, suggestions, or questions.
This quarter, we’ve been doing a lot of reflecting, discussing, and planning. Below, find a statement and a series of commitments from our team inspired by recent activism fighting for racial justice. We want to share these truths and commitments with our community to start our path towards reconciliation.
Feldman Architecture stands in vigorous opposition to racism in all its forms and is committing to actionable steps towards addressing structural, societal, and implicit biases, starting with those baked into the architecture and design industries. As a firm that names both sustainability and transparency as core values, we must acknowledge the lack of both in our industry at large when it comes to racial justice.
First and foremost, we must acknowledge the truth – our country and our industry specifically are structured to uphold systems of racism. With our studio’s focus on residential design serving very wealthy clients, we also must acknowledge our privilege and complicity within this system. With only 2% of all architects currently registered in the United States being Black, we must commit to actively working to increase accessibility and to offering support and reconciliation to Black architects, students, and members of our community.
Within our firm, we have formed an antiracism focus group, which has been brainstorming actionable items we can take collectively to address areas identified as needing improvement. We aim to assemble meaningful commitments with care and integrity, and to consistently and continually hold ourselves accountable and improve upon said commitments.
Feldman Architecture will firstly address racism internally at our firm, exploring tangible ways in which implicit bias affects our lives and the lives of those around us, specifically focusing on strategies to hold ourselves accountable and strive towards antiracism. These discussions will work to empower staff to start the journey of self-reflection and support and uplift Black community members, designers, and loved ones.
In order to address the lack of Black professionals in our industry, we will work to expand our recruiting and educational outreach. We commit to making our internship program more robust – Feldman Architecture will work with organizations like NOMA to offer internships to aspiring BIPOC architects, performing outreach and building relationships with high school and college students in our community.
We believe that specifically exposing marginalized and disenfranchised students at a younger age to architectural and design opportunities can begin to address and break down the systemic barriers that have historically kept the industry homogeneous. We must take intentional action to break this cycle and work with organizations performing educational outreach in Black communities and form pathways and relationships to do so.
We will scrutinize our hiring process. Currently, Feldman Architect has zero Black employees. We aim to change that to reflect the demographics of our broader community, and therefore will commit to actively recruiting Black architects and encouraging others in our industry to do the same. We will establish relationships with HBCUs and expand and diversify our hiring process via organizational partnerships, job boards, and community outreach.
We will prioritize pro bono efforts which provide design services and consultations to organizations and nonprofits that are working towards racial justice and/or that specifically benefit Black communities. Our entire pro bono effort will be focused more closely and intentionally on serving underrepresented and minority communities.
We will aim to increase the diversity of our collaborator and consultant pool, specifically seeking out Black owned and led companies to work with and promote.
We will invite conversation and discussion. Please feel free to engage us with suggestions, ideas, or criticisms. We are dedicated to making this work a permanent part of our firm’s processes and will have blog posts updating our community on our progress as we work towards making our commitments as concrete and specific as possible within the next six months.
We are committed and open. There is much work to do and much for us to learn. Black lives matter, and always will.