This year – the JEDI (Justice, Equity, Diversity, Inclusion) Committee has been busy with a variety of in office initiatives and mentorship opportunities, and we’re excited to share an update with you. In this post, we will highlight a few things we achieved, and few we still hope to accomplish – and find more information on past work in our last update here. We’re proud and excited by the work we’re doing and would love your feedback and suggestions – as always, please feel free to reach out.
At the onset of 2022, after working with DEI consultant Humanize Us All, we identified a few key internal initiatives the studio could implement to make Feldman Architecture a more equitable and transparent workplace. HUA recommended our studio consider implementing affinity groups – which resonated with the JEDI Committee, and we discussed, researched, and called upon outside counsel to help us develop a strategy that would best serve our firm. We then implemented a two-part strategy – first forming ERGs (Employee Resource Groups) based on positions held by staff: a Designer, Job Captain, and Project Manager group meet monthly to discuss challenges, questions, and ideas, and then present biannually to the executive team to be solved, addressed, or just heard. So far, we’ve found this to be a very successful tool for internal mentorship and career growth. Our second initiative took the form of monthly open office discussions, surrounding a variety of identity-based topics our staff can discuss on a voluntary basis. So far, as an office, we’ve had discussions with the following themes/identities: International Staff, Parents and Caregivers, and Mental Health in the Workplace. All staff have been invited to each session, and thus far have resulted in fruitful and healing discussions that encouraged new connections and growth. We’re excited to continue to grow and develop these initiatives in the coming year – reach out if you have suggestions or ideas for monthly open office discussion topics!
Secondly, this year, the JEDI Committee has been very focused on furthering our staff’s participation in mentorship opportunities, which involved dedicating a budget to staff mentorship and volunteer hours and crafting a plan for which organizations we donate our time to. This year, two staff members acted as mentors with ACE Mentorship San Francisco Chapter, one staff member volunteered through SF NOMA Project Pipeline summer camp, we hosted a high school intern from the SFUSD, and one staff member mentored a high school student through AFSF. We’ve enjoyed exploring local organizations exposing specifically underserved youth in our community to the architecture and design industry and are looking forward to more volunteer work in the coming year.
A few other accomplishments to note: the JEDI Committee invited David Godshall from Terremoto Landscape to speak to our studio for a Third Thursday about the community-based activism their firm is pioneering, began researching and discussing the potential of a Feldman Architecture Scholarship Fund, solidified our internal complaint form, and continued working on expanding and creating a more inclusive hiring process. Next year, we’re excited to check a few more things off our list, including creating an internal KPI metrics tracker for our DEI initiatives and progress.
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.