The Institute’s decision to initiate a Committee for Gender Equity was timely, providing us with a platform to participate in the broad political discourse surrounding issues of equity.

After two years as Chair, and in keeping with the Articles of Agreement, it’s time for me to hand over the Committee reigns to Lee Hillam. Lee is a founder and practice Director at Dunn Hillam architects in Sydney. As well as being a fabulous architect and mother of two young children, she also sits on the NSW Gender Equity Task Force. All of these hats means she is well placed to agitate, activate and put into practice initiatives that work toward a fairer workplace for all.

Reflecting on the last two years, I have been pleasantly surprised by just how much we have managed to pull off! We’ve used the communications mechanisms of the Institute to raise the profile of women in the industry; we have reviewed the Code of Practice to include equity for employees; we’ve established the Paula Whitman Leadership in Gender Equity Prize, which will be given at next year’s AAAA awards; and we’ve made two pivotal moves that have the potential to impact on the profession for decades to come.

The first was establishing a partnership arrangement with Parlour, an independent association brought about to promote gender equity in architecture. In 2014, at a time of extreme financial challenge for the Institute, the National Council elected to prioritise this funding partnership and in doing so sent a strong message to its members and the broader community about the importance of equity and the value of us all to the advancement and relevance of the profession.

Secondly, and more recently, we have advocated for changes to be made to the proposed composition of the Board of Directors to ensure that a minimum of three men and a minimum of three women sit on the board at any one time. Our advocacy here was once again whole heartedly embraced by the National Executive.

In my opinion, it’s critical to be progressive and to get the big moves right, but at the same to be a village person. With the backing of our village, we have the confidence to consider smaller actions, to consider how a small move could lead to big things for someone else, to build up trust and honesty, to be brave.

It’s a way of dealing with big problems from both scales and knowing that everything we do makes a difference!

For us as architects, to achieve equity we need to ensure that we are making decisions with a long view in mind and for the benefit of all. This is not just about making changes for women to give them more opportunity in the workforce; it’s about making changes to give us ALL more flexibility, more equality and more opportunities. Everybody has a role to play, be it big or small!

– Emma Williamson