by Jake Minden
Equity at Work: Designing an Inclusive and Equitable Workplace Culture is a collaborative research project between University of Washington MLA Graduate Jake Minden, The College of Built Environments Applied Research Consortium, and Mithun.
Built environment design professionals are responsible for myriad spaces that contribute to positive or negative effects on societal health, well-being, and happiness. Who designs the built environment (representation), and how they do it (equitable practice) matters. Improving the representation and retention of design practitioners from historically excluded racial and ethnic minority groups and developing more equitable and inclusive workplace practices is imperative to reduce the negative effects of white supremacy in built environment design practice and the built environment itself.
Many racist barriers in need of removal exist within the design professions, from K-12 to post-secondary education to professional development and leadership. The scope of this research focuses on workplace culture as it relates to the retention of employees from underrepresented racial and ethnic minority communities.
Workplace culture is traditionally seen as top-down and defined by the leaders of a firm or organization. However, as workplaces become increasingly adaptable to a rapidly changing world and workforce, employees are expressing more agency in shifting workplace cultural norms and expectations. Independent of who creates workplace culture, it is ubiquitous to all firms and organizations, unspoken, and dynamic. Positioning workplace culture as a tool for or against white supremacy in the workplace places significant social and ethical responsibility onto those designing or influencing workplace culture. This research asks built environment design professionals to identify weaknesses within their workplace cultures and to empower professionals with information and concrete options for improving equitable practices.