#bossbabesATX x Aceable: Gender, Equity and the Future of Design

Who designs the world? Girls.

On Wednesday, May 3 at East Side Collective, in partnership with AIA Austin and SheSuite, #bossbabesATX hosted SHE TALKS: Gender, Equity and The Future of Design.

Female-identifying people make up only 32% of working professionals in architecture (and that number is even less in other design-related industries). At this SHE TALKS event, we explored this stat and others during the event's industry- and community-focused panels, each centering on inclusion, representation and the importance of equity in architecture, planning and environmental design. Get the full recap below.


Meet the night's panelists:

Martha Gonzalez: Martha Gonzalez, AIA is a licensed Architect working with Dick Clark & Associates, an award-winning architecture & interior design firm in Austin, Texas. She is currently engaged with a broad range of projects, including a large-scale planned urban development, high-end custom residences and renovation to a restaurant in a historic building in downtown Chicago, Ill. Prior to joining Dick Clark & Associates, Martha worked as an architectural project coordinator with a sustainable urban infill developer. In 2016 Martha was selected from a long list of candidates to participate in a year-long fellowship program with the Latino Center for Leadership & Development whose fundamental objective is to mobilize and inspire minorities to embark in positions of impact. Through that experience Martha has cultivated a renewed sense of commitment to effecting change through her participation in volunteer-based organizations in Texas. 

Martha Gonzalez: Martha Gonzalez, AIA is a licensed Architect working with Dick Clark & Associates, an award-winning architecture & interior design firm in Austin, Texas. She is currently engaged with a broad range of projects, including a large-scale planned urban development, high-end custom residences and renovation to a restaurant in a historic building in downtown Chicago, Ill. Prior to joining Dick Clark & Associates, Martha worked as an architectural project coordinator with a sustainable urban infill developer. In 2016 Martha was selected from a long list of candidates to participate in a year-long fellowship program with the Latino Center for Leadership & Development whose fundamental objective is to mobilize and inspire minorities to embark in positions of impact. Through that experience Martha has cultivated a renewed sense of commitment to effecting change through her participation in volunteer-based organizations in Texas. 

Nicole Joslin: As Executive Director of the Austin Community Design & Development Center, Nicole works to fulfill the Center's mission to support the creation of affordable living opportunities for vulnerable individuals, families, and neighborhoods through community-engaged design. Nicole is a licensed Architect with a Master's in Community and Regional Planning and experience in disaster recovery, community engagement, and sustainable community development. Nicole is also part of the Equity Collective, a group of design activists working as accomplices to social justice movements, and serves on the board of Evolve Austin Partners, which champions the Imagine Austin comprehensive plan, crafted by the people of Austin to create a more affordable, mobile, and sustainable city.

Nicole Joslin: As Executive Director of the Austin Community Design & Development Center, Nicole works to fulfill the Center's mission to support the creation of affordable living opportunities for vulnerable individuals, families, and neighborhoods through community-engaged design. Nicole is a licensed Architect with a Master's in Community and Regional Planning and experience in disaster recovery, community engagement, and sustainable community development. Nicole is also part of the Equity Collective, a group of design activists working as accomplices to social justice movements, and serves on the board of Evolve Austin Partners, which champions the Imagine Austin comprehensive plan, crafted by the people of Austin to create a more affordable, mobile, and sustainable city.

Ann Armstrong: Ann Armstrong moved to Austin in 2005 to pursue her master of architecture degree from UT.  After graduation she took up welding and spent 8 years working in fabrication shops and on construction sites. Today she works as an architect/project manager at a commercial real estate development firm and lives in a tiny house she designed and built.  Her extracurricular pursuits revolve around observing and revealing Austin’s sense of place. In 2013 she created a overall project to house these explorations called Austin’s Atlas. Atlas projects run the gamut from collaborative murals, guided walks, city mapping workshops, and the creation of place based participatory public events.

Ann Armstrong: Ann Armstrong moved to Austin in 2005 to pursue her master of architecture degree from UT.  After graduation she took up welding and spent 8 years working in fabrication shops and on construction sites. Today she works as an architect/project manager at a commercial real estate development firm and lives in a tiny house she designed and built.  Her extracurricular pursuits revolve around observing and revealing Austin’s sense of place. In 2013 she created a overall project to house these explorations called Austin’s Atlas. Atlas projects run the gamut from collaborative murals, guided walks, city mapping workshops, and the creation of place based participatory public events.

Julie Yost: Julie Yost is the Design Program Curator and award-winning* Head of GIFs at SXSW Eco. She created Place by Design for SXSW Eco 2013, and currently oversees the competition and all related programming. Her goal is to make SXSW Eco a destination for creative urbanists, and she is continually plotting strategies to engage and connect our multi-disciplinary community. She has a MFA in Historic Preservation from SCAD, where her award-winning** thesis proposed creative place-making and public art as methods of cultural preservation in areas where the historic built environment is compromised. A fifth generation Texan, she misspent her award-winning*** youth trespassing in and photographing abandoned west Texas, an ongoing pastime that likely sparked her obsession with places and their potential.

Julie Yost: Julie Yost is the Design Program Curator and award-winning* Head of GIFs at SXSW Eco. She created Place by Design for SXSW Eco 2013, and currently oversees the competition and all related programming. Her goal is to make SXSW Eco a destination for creative urbanists, and she is continually plotting strategies to engage and connect our multi-disciplinary community. She has a MFA in Historic Preservation from SCAD, where her award-winning** thesis proposed creative place-making and public art as methods of cultural preservation in areas where the historic built environment is compromised. A fifth generation Texan, she misspent her award-winning*** youth trespassing in and photographing abandoned west Texas, an ongoing pastime that likely sparked her obsession with places and their potential.

Donna Carter: DONNA D. CARTER, FAIA is President of CARTER DESIGN ASSOCIATES, an architectural, planning and restoration firm in Austin, Texas.  Her practice is focused on projects combining revitalization, historic preservation and new construction within a complete community context. During her tenure in Austin, Ms. Carter's civic activities include service on numerous planning and development city task force committees and commissions.  She has authored several master plan and guideline documents including a community led implementation effort that culminated in the publishing of RUDAT  A Call… to Action.  Ms. Carter has served on many professional, civic and social service related boards, including her appointment to the Texas Historical Commission. She is a past Fellow of the Center for Heritage Conservation at Texas A&M University and recently finished her terms on the boards of Huston Tillotson University and the Seton Healthcare Family.  

Donna Carter: DONNA D. CARTER, FAIA is President of CARTER DESIGN ASSOCIATES, an architectural, planning and restoration firm in Austin, Texas.  Her practice is focused on projects combining revitalization, historic preservation and new construction within a complete community context. During her tenure in Austin, Ms. Carter's civic activities include service on numerous planning and development city task force committees and commissions.  She has authored several master plan and guideline documents including a community led implementation effort that culminated in the publishing of RUDAT  A Call… to Action.  Ms. Carter has served on many professional, civic and social service related boards, including her appointment to the Texas Historical Commission. She is a past Fellow of the Center for Heritage Conservation at Texas A&M University and recently finished her terms on the boards of Huston Tillotson University and the Seton Healthcare Family.  

Elizabeth Baird: Born and raised in Memphis, Tennessee, Elizabeth moved to Austin after graduating from the University of Virginia with a Bachelor of Science in Architecture and a minor in Architectural History.  She spent time working to pursue interests in sustainable design, retail design, and graphic design before returning to school to earn her Masters in Architecture from the University of Texas. Elizabeth then joined local award-winning firm Mell Lawrence Architects, where she honed her architectural skills working on residential and civic projects, and eventually became an Associate of the firm.  She most recently worked for boutique residential contractor, Miars Construction, where she engaged in everything from bidding to managing construction of projects, including her own design/ build work.

Elizabeth Baird: Born and raised in Memphis, Tennessee, Elizabeth moved to Austin after graduating from the University of Virginia with a Bachelor of Science in Architecture and a minor in Architectural History.  She spent time working to pursue interests in sustainable design, retail design, and graphic design before returning to school to earn her Masters in Architecture from the University of Texas. Elizabeth then joined local award-winning firm Mell Lawrence Architects, where she honed her architectural skills working on residential and civic projects, and eventually became an Associate of the firm.  She most recently worked for boutique residential contractor, Miars Construction, where she engaged in everything from bidding to managing construction of projects, including her own design/ build work.

Jeanne Schultz: Jeanne Schultz is Principal of Jeanne Schultz Design Studio, a small scale design firm offering building and interior design services, with a focus on adaptive reuse, compact urban dwelling units, and single family homes. She studied Geography and Architecture at the University of Texas at Austin, culminating in an integrative investigation of the natural environment and built world. Jeanne designed her first building before graduating from Texas, which was built in East Austin. Thereafter, she gained practical experience in design, building and structure as a designer and construction manager for a prominent general contractor in Austin, whilst developing an independent brand. Since launching her eponymous firm in January 2016, she and her team of collaborators have undertaken a multitude of projects in Austin and Nashville, working directly with developers and Owner teams to curate unique user experiences.

Jeanne Schultz: Jeanne Schultz is Principal of Jeanne Schultz Design Studio, a small scale design firm offering building and interior design services, with a focus on adaptive reuse, compact urban dwelling units, and single family homes. She studied Geography and Architecture at the University of Texas at Austin, culminating in an integrative investigation of the natural environment and built world. Jeanne designed her first building before graduating from Texas, which was built in East Austin. Thereafter, she gained practical experience in design, building and structure as a designer and construction manager for a prominent general contractor in Austin, whilst developing an independent brand. Since launching her eponymous firm in January 2016, she and her team of collaborators have undertaken a multitude of projects in Austin and Nashville, working directly with developers and Owner teams to curate unique user experiences.

Maggie McIntosh: A Native Carolinian, Maggie received her Bachelor of Science in Architecture from Georgia Tech in Atlanta and worked briefly in green building education and at a residential design/build firm.  She moved to Austin in 2007 to pursue her Masters of Architecture from the University of Texas, and found the perfect fit in Austin's active lifestyle and rich cultural community.  Following graduation, she began to freelance with local area design firms including Thoughtbarn, Mark Ashby Design, and Moontower Design/Build ("Moontower").  Maggie became Moontower’s first full-time employee over 7 years ago, and is now a Partner at a the firm.  Moontower is a local design and construction group that creates thoughtful homes made for the people of Austin.  Through collaboration with many disciplines (design, construction, interiors, landscape and real estate development) and with a deep respect for the heritage and cultural capital of the city, Moontower acts as a leader in shaping Austin’s neighborhoods by crafting functional and spirited spaces for home, work, and play for all Austinites.

Maggie McIntosh: A Native Carolinian, Maggie received her Bachelor of Science in Architecture from Georgia Tech in Atlanta and worked briefly in green building education and at a residential design/build firm.  She moved to Austin in 2007 to pursue her Masters of Architecture from the University of Texas, and found the perfect fit in Austin's active lifestyle and rich cultural community.  Following graduation, she began to freelance with local area design firms including Thoughtbarn, Mark Ashby Design, and Moontower Design/Build ("Moontower").  Maggie became Moontower’s first full-time employee over 7 years ago, and is now a Partner at a the firm.  Moontower is a local design and construction group that creates thoughtful homes made for the people of Austin.  Through collaboration with many disciplines (design, construction, interiors, landscape and real estate development) and with a deep respect for the heritage and cultural capital of the city, Moontower acts as a leader in shaping Austin’s neighborhoods by crafting functional and spirited spaces for home, work, and play for all Austinites.


The Discussion:

Our focus for the evening centered on both gender equity within the architecture industry and equity for the community-at-large in built environments. Panelists shared their thoughts on sexism within the industry (revealing a wide array of experiences—both positive and negative), their individual dedication to their careers and the role of mentorship in their success. Throughout the discussion, panelists also shared their thoughts on the City of Austin's development, gentrification and the role of architects and activists in this conversation. One thing is clear: Development is inevitable, but it must be conscientious. This requires an equal effort from citizens and the City to find common ground, consult each other's expertise and work together to effect policy. Many agreed that changing the way our cities develop starts with education about the built environment (at the K through 12 level) and our vote.

We shared a few valuable resources: 

ACE Mentorship programThe ACE Mentor Program of America, Inc. (ACE) helps mentor high school students and inspires them to pursue careers in design and construction. It’s now the construction industry's fastest-growing high school mentoring program, reaching over 8,000 students annually. Our mission is to engage, excite and enlighten high school students to pursue careers in architecture, engineering, and construction through mentoring and to support their continued advancement in the industry. ACE not only engages sponsors and volunteer mentors to expose students to real-world opportunities, it financially supports each student's continued success through scholarships and grants. Since inception, ACE has awarded over $14 million in scholarships to promising participants.

Code Next: CodeNEXT is the City of Austin initiative to rewrite our outdated and complicated Land Development Code. The Land Development Code sets requirements for what, where, and how much can be built in Austin.

City of Austin’s Design Commission and Board of Adjustments

WIA (Women in Architecture) Exhibition

AIA (a community partner on this event): AIA Austin is the voice for our region's architecture community. We advocate for our members, the profession, career development, and design excellence. We influence public opinion and policies that shape our built and natural environment. Open Architecture Austin https://www.facebook.com/openarchatx/ We are part of a global network of volunteers united by the desire to bring collaborative design practice to underserved communities. #iopenarchitecture. Contact: Beau Frail, beaufrail@gmail.com

Open Architecture Houston: Design makes it possible for everyone to dream and build. We address two problems: lack of hands-on community experience for young professionals and limited access to design services for marginalized communities. We bring together architects, designers, nonprofit organizations, municipalities and local community groups, enabling underserved communities to take ownership of their collectively created places. When people design and build their own environments, they take ownership of the places they create, sustain them long term, keep them safe, invest in them, and color them with their most precious expressions. Contact: Lauren Murray, laur3nmichele@gmail.com

She Suite (a community partner on this event): SheSuite is a curated group of female leaders who mentor and nurture each other professionally and personally for the betterment of their community. They center their efforts around one vision: To live in a world where women are valued based on their talents, contribution and character rather than their gender. Contact: Wilson Hack, Wilson.hack@gmail.com

NOMA - National Association of Minority Architects: NOMA, which thrives only when voluntary members contribute their time and resources, has as its mission the building of a strong national organization, strong chapters and strong members for the purpose of minimizing the effect of racism in our profession. Strength in NOMA is built through unity in the cause that created the organization. Our impact is felt when our organization wrestles with the dilemmas that face this nation, particularly as they affect our profession. There is strength in numbers. By increasing the number of people in this organization, we add strength to the voice with which we can speak against apathy, bigotry, intolerance and ignorance; against abuse of the natural environment; and for the un-empowered, the marginalized and the disenfranchised.

SXSW Eco + Social Good: SXSW Eco creates a space for business leaders, investors, innovators and designers to drive economic, environmental and social change.

Eastside Collective (our space and host for this event): East Side Collective is a coworking studio space in Austin, TX shared by designers, builders, developers, engineers, and artists. Located in a former Pepsi bottling warehouse, cofounders Jared Haas, Tim Derrington, and Javier Martin converted 1500 sf of space into curated offices for their small businesses and other like-minded creative professionals. Together, these entities help lead Austin into thoughtful, innovative design while offering an authentic piece of Austin's creative culture. 

Austin’s Atlas: Austin's Atlas is a collaborative art project interested in discovering, capturing, and expanding Austin's sense of place.

Austin Community Design & Development Center: Our mission is to improve the quality of life for all by providing sustainable design, planning and development services to low- and moderate- income individuals, families and neighborhoods.