NDC Travels to…New York City!

In June, NDC’s Baltimore Community Design Works Program Manager Laura Wheaton attended the AIA 2018 Conference on Architecture. She shares her experience below. 

The AIA 2018 Conference on Architecture was three weeks after I returned to NDC from maternity leave with my second daughter, Clare. I didn’t want to leave her for more than a night, and scanned the conference schedule for the two-day combination that would maximize learning and networking. I was sold when I realized I could attend the Equity by Design Committee’s fourth hackathon on pre-conference day and stay through Sir David Adjaye’s keynote the next evening before sprinting back home on a late train. 

I’d never participated in a hackathon before, and the four hour timeline—with only two hours of work time—seemed intimidating. In practice, it was freeing. If we came up with a rubbish idea, so what? Not being obligated to carry anything forward beyond that afternoon liberated my group to dream. The result was an idea that we’d all love to see realized and have been emailing and conference calling about since the conference ended. 

Among the six members of our team, architecture was the only common denominator. Architecture and that we were all nice people, of course. Together, we represented a wide range of experiences, backgrounds, types of employment, and employers. It was these differences that lead us to our idea: that compensation, which typically revolves around salary and sometimes a discussion of benefits, is currently too rigid a construct to adapt to all of our individual circumstances and goals. 

How might compensation be viewed more holistically? How might it be more easily understood and communicated during usually private negotiations between employee and firm? If easily communicated, how might public conversations about compensation evolve? Might that improve equity in the architecture profession? Our approach, based on the ubiquity and legibility of nutrition labels, was “Compensation Facts.” 

You can learn more about our idea, including the revised prototype (Who knew the nutrition fact lineweights and font specifications were available online?) at the Equity by Design blog. We’re architects, not lawyers, so we have little understanding of the human resources implications. It’s still just a dream. We are, however, looking into it, and my hope is that baby Clare enters the workforce with a system much more accessible, understandable, and equitable than what’s currently in place today. 

Many thanks to the Equity by Design Committee and the Syracuse University Fisher Center for being supportive of breastfeeding mothers and providing a place for me to pump! I got to first meet Rosa Sheng, an architect I admire, while washing my pump at the office kitchenette. Because that’s how #archimoms roll.