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  • Writer's pictureSarah Woynicz

Pride by Design – Georgia Tech AIAS on Navigating Queer Identity in the Workplace

Blog.008 | Sarah Woynicz

Photography by Jacy Watson, GT School of Architecture

On February 9th, 2023, Pride by Design had the first opportunity to go beyond the blog and join American Institute of Architecture Students (AIAS) at Georgia Tech in a panel discussion on Navigating Queer Identity in the Workplace. When approached last year by Anna Wiles, current Treasurer of Georgia Tech AIAS, we both quickly realized that there were a number of questions that students had, specifically students who also identify as LGBTQIA+, with a lack of visibility, connection, and community in the profession to start the conversation around those questions. Pride by Design was joined by Jon Gould, Jessika Nelson-Woynicz, Ian hunter, Taylour Upton, Travis Hampton, and Tegra Myanna (from the Georgia Tech LGBTQIA Resource Center). The conversation touched on coming out at work (both initially and continually), how the industry has changed in the last five years, engagement in LGBTQIA+ advocacy both in the profession and in professional organizations, intersectionality, and resources as students navigate career fairs, job interviews, and seeking firms where equity, diversity, inclusion, and belonging are core values.

Following the panel, Pride by Design asked students what encouraged them to attended the panel, one thing they would like to ask someone currently in the architecture/design profession, and a hope or challenge they had for the profession in continuing to strive to be a more inclusive place. These are the responses from Kaylan Pham (she/her), Ryan Stoddard (they/them), and Anna Wiles (she/her)

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What encouraged you to attend this panel on navigating queer identity in the workplace?

Kaylan Pham (KP): I attended the panel discussion because I wanted to listen to personal anecdotes and different perspectives of individuals navigating queer identity in the workplace.

Ryan Stoddard (RS): I was excited to attend because right now I am at a point where I’m navigating my personal identity in coming out as non-binary, while also trying to find my first internship in architecture. Both processes have made me feel everything from beyond excited to deeply terrified. The opportunity to hear firsthand experiences from queer architects was more relieving and inspiring than I ever could have imagined.

Anna Wiles (AW): Seeing new faces in the audience and feeling more connected to the Atlanta network of LGBTQ+ architects and designers was exciting. I was also looking forward to the Q&A segment and hearing great questions that people had for the panelists.

What is one question you would like to ask someone currently in the design/architecture profession?

KP: In Uwe Bresan and Wolfgang Vogit’s book entitled Gay Architects: Silent Biographies from 18th to 20th Century (release date March 14, 2023), they looked at an architect magazine from Great Britain that surveyed 300 gay and lesbian architects, asking if is is easier to come out in the office than it is to come out on a building job site. The results were one out of every six architects is open about their sexuality on the building site. Why do you think that is so?

AW: This is a difficult question.. My answer might be cliché, but I think I would ask them how are you and how can we support you? The pandemic brought up a lot of discussion and change surrounding mental health in the profession, as well as work-life balance and flexibility, but there’s still a lot that people struggle with. You never know what someone is going through and sometimes we all need a little extra support. People are often afraid to ask for help because they’re scared of being judged or perceived as weak, which can cause a lot of burnout and general unhappiness. You cannot pour from an empty cup, so what are you doing for yourself and what can we help you with?

What is one hope or challenge you have for the profession?

RS: I hope I can find a place in architecture where I feel free to be myself and grow both personally and professionally. I would challenge those in the profession to be more critical in general. To take steps, even small ones, to step back and consider who they’re leaving out of a discussion or the full scope of a decision’s impact. In working towards a more inclusive profession, making an effort to pause and ask these questions will help us all understand our work, workplaces, and each other much better.

KP: Inclusive workplace cultures and diverse teams are more successful. I hope to be included in architecture firms prioritizing sustainable design, equitable practices, social inclusion, and equality.

AW: I hope to feel like I don’t need to put part of my identity away in the morning as I am getting ready for work. I think this is one of the major steps that I’m taking to feel confident and brave about being true to my identity. I would challenge architects and designers, as well as companies in general, to focus on hearing diverse perspectives. There are great guides out there on what to read, watch, follow, etc. on all platforms. We should make an active effort to hear people who look different from ourselves. As important as it is for companies to recognize and celebrate times of the year such as Black History Month (February) and Pride Month (June), it’s important to not be limited to these.

Looking for resources on how to start a similar discussion in your area? Please reach out and connect with us at Talk soon!

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