"Shape the Conversation" Succeeds

The Women in Architecture (WiA) "Shape the Conversation" exhibition featured a month-long program of events dedicated to diversity and inclusivity in the profession. Anchored by three exhibitions highlighting the work of women architects across the nation and the greater Austin metropolitan area, "Shape the Conversation" strengthened dialogues within the profession and awareness of the role of women in architecture in the larger community.

The kick-off began with an opening party attended by more than 500 people where former Texas Senator Wendy Davis spoke. The downtown exhibition doubled as a co-working and event space and welcomed guest lectures; hosted mentor speed dating sessions and luncheon roundtables; brought together allied professionals for happy hours and finally celebrated emerging professionals and newly licensed architects.

AIA Austin notes that more than 100 volunteers dedicated their time and talents to the cause; more than 50 sponsors generously contributed to the exhibition; more than 15 firms and organizations hosted events in the downtown exhibit space and more than 2,500 visitors experienced the exhibitions. 

Page hosted its own happy hour at the downtown space and celebrated the successful end of the project with a group photo of most of the registered women architects in the Austin office. The firm was a champion of the event organization and design.

“We knew these were important conversations to have. We knew that we were developing an engaging format for the exhibits and events,” says WiA Task Force Chair, AIA Austin President-Elect and Page Principal Wendy Dunnam Tita. “However, the whole event really came together as a collective community conversation for a month and touched almost every meeting I had for the month that it was happening. This impact was a delightful surprise. We were all ready for this to happen when it did!”

Page/Dyal Branding and Graphics Designer Julie Pizzo created the identity of the event. “Beyond developing the visual identity of color, typography and logo graphics, we looked holistically at naming, positioning and strategy that would drive the event experience,” notes Pizzo. “It was clear from Wendy’s enthusiasm that the event should be celebratory and inclusive, and not just about women in architecture but all types of design professionals, with Austin women architects leading the charge.” Pizzo notes that she came up with “Shape the Conversation” as a call to action.

Page Design Architect Jenna Steinbeck led the design and fabrication of the local component, Women in Architecture “Shaping Austin,” which was on view in the downtown space. The installation highlights local projects in which women played a significant role in either project design or implementation. Steinbeck says that the exciting part about “Shaping Austin” was that it gave visitors the opportunity to contribute additional projects to the map. “My hope is that this exhibit will serve as a three dimensional snapshot of all the great work women have contributed to our built environment and will spark a sense of pride in Austinites for their city,” says Steinbeck. She also notes the significance of the event as a catalyst to breaking down barriers and opening dialogues about diversity in the profession.

“To be honest, I have never really been one to speak openly or raise questions about why women are underrepresented in our profession, especially at the leadership level,” says Steinbeck. “Through the planning of 'Shape the Conversation,' I became more aware of how many of my colleagues and friends had stories and experiences that they wanted to share on the topic of diversity and inclusion. Through their sharing, I have become more comfortable in talking about my own experiences. This exhibit has served as encouragement to start talking about topics that may seem uncomfortable at first, but if we can increase awareness, my hope that we no longer will need to talk on these issues because they won’t exist.”

Page Associate Design Architects Shelby Blessing and Diana Su will continue this conversation in their charge to develop the new AIA Austin Early Career Leadership Program.