Shape the Conversation

By Wendy Dunnam Tita, Women in Architecture Task Force Chair

We began a conversation about Women in Architecture in Austin over a year ago after being inspired by the terrific exhibit that AIA Houston created back in 2014. At first, we did not know how much momentum there would be for the exhibit in Austin, as we did not know how many people would want to be involved in creating a series of exhibits and events that highlighted the professional accomplishments of women architects and the need for greater diversity and inclusion in our profession.

What we discovered was that there was a tremendous appetite for all of the above. There was also great support for developing initiatives focused at substantially solving the problems revealed by recent data about the disparity between the number of women and minority architecture school graduates and their rates of licensure and representation  in firm leadership.

Throughout the month of the Shape the Conversation exhibit, people were talking in and out of their offices about the issues that were raised. The “outreach” component of the project was very successful. Allied groups of landscape, engineering, construction, real estate, development and interior design professionals hosted events in the space and this really worked to carry the conversation to a whole other audience.

In addition, our news coverage in local blogs, The Austin American Statesman and NPR's Texas Standard carried the conversation across the city and State.

What do we hope to accomplish?

  • That people walk away from the experience feeling excited about the depth of female architecture talent in our country (and city).
  • That firms and firm leaders recognize that there are multiple reasons that we are not seeing women in leadership and they play a significant role in solving the “missing 32%” problem.
  • That women and minorities feel empowered by these discussions and will work with their colleagues and firm leaders to remove barriers to leadership development and career advancement.
  • That members know that AIA Austin is fully committed to a positive role in the conversation including the development of its new Early Career Leadership Program.

We knew these were important conversations to have. We knew that we were developing an engaging format for the exhibits and events. However, the whole event really came together as a collective community conversation for a month and touched almost every meeting we had while it was happening. This impact was a delightful surprise. Over 100 volunteers dedicated their time and talents to the cause; over 50 sponsors generously contributed to the exhibition; over 15 firms and organizations hosted events in the downtown exhibit space; and over 2,500 visitors experienced the Shape the Conversation exhibits. 


We would like to extend our sincere thanks to the committee members, volunteers, sponsors, and supporters who helped us Shape the Conversation.


Shape the Conversation was a series of exhibits, events, and programs organized and produced by AIA Austin's Women in Architecture to recognize the far-reaching achievements of women architects in Texas and beyond. There were three exhibits highlighting the work of women architects throughout the years, across the nation, and in Travis County:


1850 to the Future at 249 W. 2nd Street, originally shown and created by AIA Houston


Shaping Austin at 249 W. 2nd Street


National Outlook, Local Stories at Goldsmith Hall, UT School of Architecture



Shape the Conversation also included a number of lunchtime roundtable panels and happy hours hosted by women-led and local architecture firms.  

Our goals for these exhibits and programming were: to lend our voices to a conversation about inclusion and diversity in the profession; raise funds to support a Leadership Program at AIA Austin aimed at developing the next generation of engaged and diverse professionals; and to close the gap in the under-represented populations between School of Architecture graduates and those registered and leading the profession.



Visit the Capturing the Conversation Blog.