What is the difference between equity and equality? Rosa Sheng, director of equity, diversity, and inclusion at SmithGroup, explained the concepts during her presentation at the recently concluded CONSTRUCT Show in Long Beach, California. Titled “Why Equity Matters for Everyone: A New Value Proposition for Design,” the Thought Leader session was held on October 4.
According to Sheng, with equality, everybody gets the same piece of the pie regardless of the outcome, whereas with equity, there is a need to identify systemic barriers and share resources where needed. Equity involves a pursuit of minimizing barriers to access, she added.
Sheng also discussed the findings from the 2016 Equity in Architecture Survey. According to her, 50 percent of architecture graduates are women, but the proportion drops when one starts looking at licensure and firm leaders. Sheng notes there are systems of barriers and bias that are invisible to the general population.
One of the emerging practices for adopting a culture of equity, diversity, and inclusion is looking into intercultural intelligence. This involves seeing things through a racial and ethnic lens, and can help architectural firms realize the goal of equitable practice. Additionally, design professionals can create new relevance, provide meaningful engagement, and improve design outcomes for the communities they serve.