Over the past few months, Architect, Lucy Ashcroft, has been working alongside Associate Director, Chithra Marsh, to develop the practice's Equity, Diversity and Inclusivity initiative and has been key in implementing and managing our internal plan. Here, she discusses the personal factors that have driven her involvement and the importance of creating a culture of acceptance in today's evolving world.
On every project, we work hard to ensure the designs we produce reflect the diversity of the communities they serve. This is achieved by collaborating and communicating with building users, providing opportunities for individuals to have their voices heard, take ownership, and become a valued part of the process. It stands to reason, therefore, that our staff feel equally empowered and represented when they come to work.
In recent years, we have, as a practice, sought to cultivate a growth mindset that encourages openness without judgement in an environment of acceptance. In understanding the barriers people face, whether that be gender, age, race, sexual orientation, being a new parent or having a disability, in supporting others, and by sharing best practice, we not only create a forward-thinking, inclusive place to work, but we can also help colleagues feel more equipped to face external challenges with confidence.
Over the past 12 months, movements across the world have further instilled the importance of creating a culture of acceptance, while highlighting the responsibility we all have to increase diversity and inclusivity within our society, and our industry.
For these reasons, at the start of 2021, we took steps to formalise our approach to Equity, Diversity and Inclusivity and develop a strategy that would both build on our existing work and bring us one step closer to becoming a truly inclusive practice.
This began with an informal discussion with colleagues about a personal experience of unconscious bias during which I quickly realised that I shared this experience with so many other people. Following this, we began to put into motion steps that would support others in the practice to spot those occurrences of bias, prejudice, intolerance in others, as well as themselves.
The team at Buttress have such a vast array of knowledge, experience, and skills that we all learn from in an incredibly supportive environment that encourages individuality. In helping to develop the studio's EDI action plan, the aim is to build on this foundation of educating and inspiring others and promoting the objective of sharing personal experiences that can help others.
We do this through a range of activities that give equal emphasis to issues relating to gender, race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, disability, mental health, age, and social mobility.
Staff are engaged through the telling of personal stories either by fellow team members or guest speakers to encourage compassion and understanding. Examples of recent events we've held include a talk by Carl Austin-Lord, LGBTQ+ Advisor to the Mayor of Greater Manchester and Greater Manchester Combined Authority and a practice-wide discussion on gender equality for International Women's Day.
Personally, as a newly qualified architect, I am at the stage in my career where I am still finding my own style and approach to all aspects of the job. This not only relates to my day-to-day tasks on projects but also in developing my skills in management, communication, and interaction with others. A part of this being open-minded, listening to others, and learning from different experiences. Having access to resources the EDI strategy offers has been key in supporting this aspect of my development, ensuring that inclusivity is at the heart of my approach.
While we recognise that as an industry we still have a long way to go in achieving true diversity and inclusivity, we hope that in laying down this strategy we will support our own, as well as wider efforts to celebrate the richness and diversity of all.