Women pointing at diagram on a map

Diversity, Equity + Inclusion Action Plan

A 2021 update to SOM’s 34-point DEI Action Plan, originally created in collaboration with SOM NOMA members, passionate colleagues, and our community in July 2020.

Women pointing at diagram on a map

Advancing our culture and practices

Since we released our first Diversity, Equity + Inclusion Action Plan in July 2020, we have been inspired by progress in advancing equity both within SOM and throughout the architecture, design, and engineering industries. We know there is more work to be done: the continued underrepresentation of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color in our industry and our offices is a clear sign that we must continue our collective pursuit to create a truly equitable and diverse culture at SOM.

Over the past year, we have steadily advanced the 34 goals set out in our original plan, but we know that true equity takes time. We’re at the beginning of a process that will continue for years to come. To hold ourselves and our industry accountable, this is the first of many updates, as we continue this vital conversation designed to help move our industry forward.

Building a safe and equitable work environment

  1. Reviewing and strengthening our global ethics guidelines and code of conduct training
  2. Rethinking the onboarding and orientation process for all new hires to establish an understanding of diversity, equity, and inclusion, including fully revising our employee handbook
  3. Implementing flexible workplace policies to allow our colleagues to address their needs through flexible schedules and remote work
  4. Expanding the range of avenues for reporting discriminatory practices, including an anonymous third-party reporting platform, with clear protocols for follow-up
Meredith Bostwick-Lorenzo Eiroa

In our increasingly mobile and connected world, creative work can happen anywhere. It’s important for us to embrace new modes of working, influencing our practice through differentiated contexts and cultures.

Meredith Bostwick-Lorenzo Eiroa

Expanding training programs to support equitable career growth

  1. Creating a holistic, global standard for training, development, and growth, inclusive of a broad spectrum of topics and ideas that enhance our work
  2. Conducting regular training on unintended bias and cultural sensitivity for everyone at SOM
  3. Committing to personal training plans to catalyze growth and build specific skills, including design training, public speaking, team management, project leadership, and more

We’re committed to advancing our culture and people by nurturing talent. Through our learning community, we support professional growth so that our colleagues can achieve their highest career aspirations.

Recruiting talent that reflects the diversity of the communities we serve

  1. Reexamining and overhauling existing hiring practices to establish an inclusive hiring process at all levels, including leadership positions
  2. Developing and strengthening relationships with Historically Black Colleges and Universities and an expanded group of institutions
  3. Expanding the role of Summer Internship and Year One programs to attract diverse talent equitably to SOM and the profession
  4. Increasing recognition of our Employee Resource Groups—SOM NOMA, Pride, Women’s Initiative, Asian Alliance, Arquitectos, and more—internally and externally, to represent the many voices and experiences at SOM
Asian Alliance group photo
Asian Alliance
NOMA group photo
Pride group photo
Women group photo
Women's Initiative

Mentoring and championing talent to become leaders at SOM

  1. Providing greater access to tools for success at SOM, including transparent criteria for evaluation, promotion, and compensation
  2. Evaluating existing career paths and supporting new, unconventional paths to success at SOM
  3. Creating a dedicated mentorship program for BIPOC employees, pairing mentees with mentors across all disciplines
  4. Celebrating our BIPOC colleagues’ contributions to the industry

Cultivating dialogue on equity and social justice

  1. Expanding our global task force on Talent, Equity, Diversity and Development (TEDD) to include representatives from our Employee Resource Groups, including NOMA, Pride, Women’s Initiative, Arquitectos, and more
  2. Convening quarterly Equity Roundtables to foster dialogue with a cross section of our community at SOM
  3. Creating opportunities for reflection, learning, and conversation for significant dates and moments in history, including the anniversary of Whitney Young’s monumental speech at the 1968 AIA convention, and more 
  4. Establishing online forums for more frequent, informal conversation on equity, social justice, and action
  5. Providing dedicated annual budgets for diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives and employee resource groups

Racial justice is at the forefront of conversations at SOM and our industry right now. My personal focus is to bring a better understanding of the issues to my colleagues, develop a sustainable approach to build on, and concretely increase minority representation in design.

Julia Skeete

Reporting back to the SOM community

  1. Reporting annually to our global team on our demographics, progress with ongoing initiatives, philanthropy, and investments and partnerships with minority, BIPOC, and women-owned businesses and organizations
  2. Sharing progress quarterly within each studio about ongoing initiatives, training, volunteering, events, and community partnerships
  3. Creating a direct channel for ideas and suggestions to leadership, led by our Chief People Officer and our global task force on Talent, Equity, Diversity and Development

Speaking up to create change in our industry

Our voices, actions, and choices can make a difference beyond our own workplace. We are using our influence to pave the way toward a more just, transparent, and inclusive industry by identifying and addressing the root causes of the lack of diversity in AEC—steering away from one-off initiatives and instead focusing on sustainable, long-term change.

Advancing equity and inclusion in design

  1. Proposing, supporting, and advocating for equity initiatives in the AEC industry through our involvement in professional organizations including the AIA, NOMA, RIBA, NCSEA, NCARB, AICP, NCIDQ, and more
  2. Encouraging and actively supporting team members to take leadership roles in industry organizations and nonprofits focused on advancing equity
  3. Demonstrating thought leadership around issues of equity in design at conferences, in interviews, white papers, and in other forums
  4. Continuing to partner with and expand support of the National Organization of Minority Architects, including annual sponsorship of the NOMA Student Design Competition and more
  5. Expanding upon our two-decades-long commitment to the ACE Mentorship program and other student-focused organizations dedicated to creating access and mentorship opportunities for young people entering the AEC industry, including NOMA’s Project Pipeline, and others

Pursuing projects with high social impact

  1. Launching SOM EQ Lab to establish and promote criteria for pursuing projects with equitable outcomes and develop best practices for including justice, diversity, equity, and inclusion in all of our designs
  2. Expanding our commitment to taking on projects with meaningful social and civic impact and pro-bono community-focused projects
  3. Supporting BIPOC-owned businesses by expanding our commitment to working with minority, women, and veteran-owned businesses as partners, consultants, and collaborators

Promoting civic action in our communities

  1. Advocating for positive change and equity in our communities by joining local community boards and neighborhood organizations, and playing an active role in community-led initiatives
  2. Emphasizing the importance of civic participation to drive positive change, and reinforcing SOM’s paid time off policy for voting
  3. Developing a clear framework for volunteering for teams and individuals, including promoting internal philanthropic initiatives and explore introducing volunteer hours to encourage giving back to our communities
Tiara Hughes

In addition to my work at SOM, I serve on the National Board for NOMA, as a Commissioner on the Chicago Landmarks Board, and I’m the Founder of First 500, a national initiative highlighting the achievements of African American women architects.

Tiara Hughes

More News + Stories

Learn more about our efforts working towards a more equitable, diverse, and inclusive industry.

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