The 50:50 Initiative

“It’s not optional to have equality in the industry, it’s mandatory if the profession is to survive and prosper in the future.” 
Suzette Vela Burkett, managing director, Aukett Swanke


An invitation to ask our industry leaders to commit towards a 50 male:50 female ratio within their Firm structures, and to do so by 2020; the female ratio to comprise licensed architects, architectural graduates and design professionals in the allied fields of design. Research shows that women graduates from accredited architecture programs have increased, historically, however, the profession does not reflect the same increases, and that only a small percentage of women go on to fill leadership roles.

“Supporting women in architecture is crucial to the sustainability of the architecture profession and in inspiring future generations.” 
Eva Woode, gallery manager, Roca London Gallery


Review the 50:50 Initiative Form to join and to learn more.

The Charter
This page aims to outline the vision, commitment, scope, deliverables and timeline for the ’50:50 Initiative’ to its team members, partners, supporters and relevant leadership.

The AWA+D’s raison d’etre is to support and advance women in the architectural and design professions by encouraging and fostering high levels of achievement. This is achieved through providing educational programming, mentoring and illuminating career opportunities for students and professionals in architecture and its allied fields.

During the AWA+D’s 2014/15 term, a group of 5 women formed a team to ‘think strategically’ ahead, to the year 2020, in order to envision our profession/s at the start of the new decade. The intent was to ascertain the necessary tools our membership would require to meet those challenges so as to stay relevant within an evolving profession. As a result of those discussions, the ’50:50 Initiative’ was conceived, similar to an existing campaign in the U.K.

The initiative was launched in October 2015 at the second installment of the AIA | LA’s ‘Powerful – Women Leading Design’ Symposium in Los Angeles.

The initiative is merit-based. It will be structured based on a zero-quota/zero-incentive, non-preferential approach. It is the Firm’s prerogative entirely to participate in an initiative that is based on strong evidence that women add value to the team, thereby contributing to design excellence.

Need for the 50:50 Initiative
There has been a high percentage of female graduates of NCARB accredited programs (30-40% since the 1990’s). A 2014 NAAB Report states there were 44% Women and 56% Men enrolled in architecture schools. A much lower percentage is represented in the profession, 15-25% according to a 2014 study by the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture (Ref, October 2014). There are a variety of reasons that women leave the profession early in their careers. This initiative intends to identify the challenges to hiring, retaining and promoting women in architecture and provide tools to address those challenges.

AIA Alignment
We believe the 50:50 Initiative aligns with the goals of the AIA Resolution 15-1 – Equity in Architecture. In November 2015, the first draft of the Charter dated November 22, 2015, was included as reference for the AIA National’s Equity Commission. In February 2016, the AIA | LA Board passed a motion to support the 50:50 Initiative.

Create awareness about the need for the ’50:50 Initiative’
• Establish strategic alliances, i.e. AIA | LA, EquityXDesign, NOMA
• Reach out to Firms to gain firm commitment
• Gain insight from Firms that are at the target ratio, or close to achieving same
• Compile a knowledge base using existing premises and applications in those firm structures:

– retention, licensure and work-life balance
– continuing education and professional development
– path to leadership

• Collaborate with experts on the subject, both inside and outside of our industry to gain expert advice
• Establish a Think Tank (to address why Firms might benefit from having this ratio, how it fits in with the national/international conversation on gender equality and to create awareness)
• Research, collect, assemble, disseminate, track and report data
• Ascertain best practices for Firm roll-out
• Develop metrics to measure value in a 50:50 structure
• Evaluate findings

  • Is it a Key Success Factor (KSF)

  • Contribution to design excellence

  • Relationship to market share

  • Identify gaps and ‘pinch points’

  • Collect meaningful data

  • Create comparison structures

  • Understand business advantages

  • Create documentation for use, potentially under AIA guidelines

  • Create a database

  • Provide forums for honest and unbiased discussion that include men

  • Provide a platform to showcase and celebrate that history of women in architecture and design, their work and contributions to the field(s).


Core Team

AWA+D Board Members and Executive Committee/Strategy:

Kishani De Silva, 2A+D, Arts Architecture + Design Management

Christina Monti, Principal; CDM CONSULTING

Stephanie Reich, AIA, Urban Designer; CITY OF SANTA MONICA


“As a leading UK and international practice it is our responsibility to our teams and to the profession to ensure that gender and pay inequality is a thing firmly of the past. Developing a diverse studio team and providing career opportunities for everyone creates a stronger profession, a rewarding place to work, and fundamentally produces better design. A diverse team fosters excellence in design and a diverse mamangement board makes better strategic decisions.

Aukett Swanke are pleased to team up again this year with the AJ on the Women in Archicture programme to help eliminate inequality and to acknowledge and support the valuable contribution of women in architecture. It’s not optional to have equality in the industry, it’s mandatory if the profession is to survive and prosper in the future.”
Suzetter Vela Burkett, managing director, Aukett Swanke