Equity at Holst

Equity at Holst

As the largest certified women-owned architecture firm in Oregon, Holst is committed to the pursuit of equity not only in our office but also in our industry. In addition to sponsoring and presenting at the AIA Portland Committee on Equity, Diversity & Inclusion’s daylong symposium “Future Vision: Voices in the Workplace”, we also sent a large group to participate in the event.

Holst's Lauren Sanchez, Renée Strand, Dave Otte, Nici Stauffer, Josiah Henley, Phil Roberson, Greg Whitney, Kristin Solomon, Rachel Brand, Brittany Shreiner, Yuki Bowman, Jake Watkins, and Dustin Furseth at the Future Vision symposium.

A highlight of the morning session included Fantail Collaborative's Hanna Richard-James. Hanna’s incisive commentary set the tone for the event, pointing out the fallacy of 'leveraging' someone’s race, ethnicity, gender, or sexual orientation simply to bolster an organization’s bottom line. Rather, equity is a key where the tensions that support learning and innovation are embraced, not feared. 'Sameness' (of background, attitude, assumptions), while perhaps more comfortable, risks calcification and irrelevance.

Holst's own Rachel Brand, senior associate, and Brittany Shreiner, associate, were highlights during the afternoon session’s case studies. Rachel gave an honest and brave assessment of the ways in which equity is both bolstered and hindered within Holst's democratic design environment. Brittany discussed her experience as the project architect of The Fowler as an example of how this collaborative process works on the ground, supporting both the pushing of oneself beyond comfort zones and the pulling along by experienced mentors.

Brittany Shreiner presenting at the Future Vision symposium.

The day ended with a humbling testament by Téjara Brown, founder of Diversity in Design, and Sean Bolden, one of its members, both of whom plainly described the difficulty of being in a profession with few people who look like them. Diversity in Design provides a much-needed support network for design professionals of color. Coming at the tail end of a day focused largely on gender equity, the session asked attendees to consider inequity in all its guises.

The symposium set a great foundation as Holst moved into a series of in-house equity workshops in June. Three separate sessions—one for leadership, a second for staff, and a third with the whole office together—enabled us to have honest conversations about both the progress we have made and have yet to make as we continue to pursue equity in our workplace.

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