Blog.001 | Sarah Woynicz
Hello and Happy Pride from Atlanta, Georgia! (Yes, we celebrate Pride Month in October.) Welcome to Pride by Design and thank you to the WIELD Committee for this opportunity to join the Equity by WIELD Stories space. Following a year of visioning, hoping, and no longer being able to ignore the voice in the back of my head, Pride by Design was born on the heels of the AIA 2022 Women’s Leadership Summit. Nothing gives quite the nudge towards action like being in a room and learning alongside 750 people, many of whom are women or those who identify as a woman and have spent careers working to change the profession and the work we do towards a more visible, equitable, inclusive place. This has been a year of learning, listening, building my toolkit of understanding, frustration, hope, and finally, action towards hopefully catalyzing change. In 2021, I had the opportunity to join a panel discussion hosted by the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) AIAS/NOMAS chapters. Though I cannot remember the exact wording of the question, at one point we were asked about visibility and the impact that had on each panelist in our professional space. That moment was a catalyst not just for looking back, but propelling forward and the creation of Pride by Design – a space striving to bring visibility to LGBTQIA+ professionals in the architecture and design industry.
Summer 2014 – Durham, North Carolina.
I was interning with a local design-build firm, BuildSense. Most of my days were spent on job sites, bringing architecture and construction together. The project architect I was learning from, Megan, invited me to a few Women in Construction events over the summer. In addition to meeting some incredible women architects, designers, fabricators, and small business owners, I also met a woman who was open in her identity in the LGBTQIA+ community. I look back to that moment, that internship, as the moment I knew I belonged in architecture. Though it would be years before I had the language to be able to explain “why”, this moment harnessed the power of visibility, of belonging, of seeing oneself – and fundamentally changed my trajectory.
Fast forward to 2021 and the SCAD panel discussion.
Following the panel discussion, I received a message from one of the students who had attended, Elisa. In 2018, Elisa had participated in a weekend long design charette in our HKS Atlanta office. To this day, I remember not just her message, but the impact it had.
"Hey! I joined the SCAD NOMA Diversity panel earlier today! Just wanted to take a moment to thank you because when I was first introduced to you at the HKS fellowship two years ago, you were the first female openly LGBT architect for me."
Receiving that message hit me at my core. The reminder of the power that visibility brings to belonging rushed right back in, something that I never thought or realized I could be a part of for another. Unfortunately, this reminder was followed by a layer of frustration, frustration that, even though separated by a few years, there was (and still is) a lack of visibility within the architecture and design profession.
For the last year, this moment has been with me, starting as a quiet hum in the background and growing to a roar that I not only cannot ignore but must act on. In the last year, there have been opportunities to work with others to begin creating space and communities for LGBTQIA+ architects and designers to come together in community, in support, in visibility, and in change. At HKS, I have been a part of the core leadership group founding the first Affinity and Inclusion Group, HKS Pride. AIA Atlanta has also hosted two events this year for LGBTQIA+ AIA members and allies as well as looking to next year and the opportunity to join AIA Chicago, AIA Dallas, and AIA Austin with an AIA Atlanta LGBTQIA+ Alliance. But that roar is still present… Over the last year, it has grown into a call to remove barriers of location, of tenure or title in the profession, of access and to instead share the experiences of those who have paved the way, as well as the experiences of those who are just beginning.
In a survey by A.L Hu through Queeries, participants were asked a question about who was a LGBTQIA+ architect or designer that they looked up to. As I (figuratively) looked around me, I realized that those I looked up to were my peers beside me. There was no space, no book shared on a summer reading list during architecture school. Nothing but the power of the experiences I was living day to day. While there is power in lived experiences, there is also power when asked “do you see yourself in the profession, in those you look up to, in leadership”, the response is resolutely “yes.”
Over the next few months, Pride by Design will be hosted in the Equity by WIELD Stories space as a guest blog. Every other week, we will be sharing the stories of architects, designers, engineers and contractors. Though we may start small, the hope is that this space becomes yours and will continue to grow as all of our stories are shared. I look forward to leaning into the unknown with the hope for the opportunity to create meaningful, authentic space to connect and be visible.
To new beginnings – Sarah