A 2021 International Women's Day reflection on equity in the workplace and the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Covid-19 pandemic has created imbalanced losses in the workplace, taking a greater toll on women than men. Nearly 1 million mothers have left the workforce since the beginning of the pandemic, and Black and Hispanic mothers have been disproportionately affected. This speaks to a crisis for women, and particularly mothers and women of color. Building back post-pandemic, a renewed emphasis must be placed on creating a diverse workforce, even more so than pre-pandemic.
According to Michael Madowitz, an economist at the Center for American Progress, “Just before the pandemic hit, for the first time ever, for a couple months, we had more women employed than men and now we are back to late 1980s levels of women in the labor force.”  Those pre-pandemic levels, however, weren’t indicative of gender equity across all industries. In fact, it’s noted that one reason so many women have lost their jobs during the pandemic is that leisure and hospitality jobs were some of the most highly impacted, which are female-dominated sectors.  Architecture is another industry where gender equity hasn’t been met. A survey by the ACSA showed that only 25% of working architects and architectural designers in the U.S. are women.  If the architecture industry has been affected the same way other industries have been, that percentage will have only shrunk due to the pandemic.
Why is the inequity borne of the pandemic such a crisis? Diversity in the workplace is an asset, particularly in creative workplaces. Teams with all genders have more diverse opinions and viewpoints, which leads to more innovative designs and solutions. Gender equity and diverse representation on teams also reflect the communities that architects serve. This allows for varying perspectives and needs to be reflected in designs.
In the New York Times, Betsey Stevenson, an economist at the University of Michigan said, “Covid took a crowbar into gender gaps and pried them open.”  The way we shape our industry and teams after the pandemic, though, is up to us. Going forward, Grimshaw has the opportunity to create a more diverse, creative and equitable workforce both in our studio and our profession.