FROM WHERE I SIT: MICHAEL HODGE
As we honor the significance of Black History, we are faced with the reality that even in 2020, People of Color are still widely underrepresented in architecture. As industry leaders, we must ask ourselves whether our profession is continually making strides to be as diverse as the many people we impact through the built environment each day.
As a firm, we have a critical responsibility to flip this script on its head by amplifying the Black voices of tvsdesign and celebrating the countless contributions and ideas they bring. We sat down with Michael Hodge, Principal of tvsdesign’s Digital Practice for a Q+A series on what we have to gain as an industry when diversity and inclusion is at the forefront of the conversation:
Why architecture/what led you to this career path?
I have always been artistic, could draw and created things. In high school while in a math and science magnet program, I began to look into career paths where art/design, math and science merged. At the time, architecture, aerospace design, product design and mechanical engineering where the disciplines and industries I became aware of. Out of those options I choose architecture. I felt a more of a personal connection to designing the built environment versus creating products or design for industry/commercialization.
What inspires you?
The result of good design, as well as the process creating good design. I came into the profession at the time of transition of means and methods to design, draw and document, and became enamored with the power of new digital tools and means of creating. The attraction to new digital tools and processes has defined the majority of my career.
What does an inclusive workplace look like for you?
An inclusive workplace to me would be defined by a work culture where diversity is institutional. When done right, it is a social structure with the purpose of a workplace culture where the level of respect, equity and inclusion is equitable in all aspects of the employment experience.
Why does diversity matter for the architecture industry?
Diversity matters in architecture at many levels inclusion, gender, ethnic and racial, all of which culminate at the workplace level in our profession, because “architecture is a team-sport.” No work is done by one individual. Therefore, diversity is a necessity. The key is fostering inclusion of diversity in all aspects of the profession, so that everyone is included and provided the same opportunities in the day-to-day aspects of our profession
How would you describe the link between inclusion and innovation?
Inclusion as a cultural imperative will drive innovation. I will add diversity also in a manner similarly to why it is important in the profession because innovation requires the ability to see different. Without both diversity and inclusion you can not bring a variety of viewpoints together to ignite new ideas or spark innovative thinking.
What can firms do to cultivate Black and Minority leadership?
Firms would first have to see and understand the issue our profession has in regard to people of color and minorities in leadership. Once this is done, it is easy to chart an intentional path for improvement by-way of developing a culture of inclusion that fosters and cultivates individuals in the demographic that is less represented as a whole in our profession. Many firms have taken steps and made great stride—I feel tvsdesign has done a great deal in this regard at all levels of the firm, and it will be good to see many more firms begin to change the narrative of the norm.
What can the profession do to empower more People of Color to choose architecture as a career?
Beyond the things I have addressed regarding inclusion and diversity, having the same opportunities and being afforded a career path without limits is what anyone would seek in their chosen line of work, and where equitable leaders that are Persons of Color will emerge. The issue has historically been the barriers and limits of inclusion and diversity that are changing so that persons like myself and others can become examples of what can be achieved in the profession. I feel that the more People of Color become aware of leaders and we have exemplary examples of architects and design professionals that are Persons of Color that will empower more to look at the profession as a career choice. As long as the profession provides opportunities for those examples to be present, front and center in the profession, that is all that I feel the profession can provide.
Learn more about Michael here.