October 24, 2022
Co-Authored by: Khushboo Gupta and Emina Tatarevic
“An ally is someone who speaks well for you behind your back especially when they have nothing to gain from it. Being polite to people is a decent enough thing to do but being an ally is a powerful thing” – a statement by one of the speakers at this year’s Powerful IX conference from AIALA’s Women In Architecture. The theme of “Everyday Allies” asked us all to reflect on what it means to truly be an ally, regardless of circumstance or company.
The day started with hopeful positivity as we gathered at Colburn School. Lectures kicked off with introductions by AIA National 2024 president-elect Kimberly Dowdell and AIALA current president Mitra Memari, both making history: Dowdell as the first black woman AIA President; and Memari as an Iranian immigrant and AIALA President who expressed solidarity with the freedom struggle for Iranian women with moving words, “Zan, Zendegi, Azadi.” In addition to remarks from these inspiring women, other topics and speakers at the conference ranged from unionization efforts for architectural workers by Architectural Workers United, to the reproductive rights of women in a Post-Roe World by Juliana Serrano, to a panel on emerging practices led by women architects.
After lunch we attended individual workshops for intimate experiences and discussions with members of the LGBTQ community, looking at how spatial design influences identity. At the Women In STEM workshop, we were provided a safe space for discussion on everyday issues women faced at work.
After a packed day of lectures, panels, workshops, and networking, we were left still thinking about Mitra’s expressed solidarity with the women in Iran and how this aligned with Juliana’s call to action: “as women in architecture you know how to fight battles well.” Our position as women, of all backgrounds, in architecture has tremendous worth and impact. It’s on us to embody ally-ship intentionally and wholly, as we are most “Powerful” together.
The Powerful conference offered us a day of intense learning, while also allowed us to reclaim a sense of self and connect with fellow women on a personal level.