by Pat Baillie | Last Friday, I got a chance to speak at the LGBT Reception during the annual American Institute of Architects convention in New Orleans. I know your first thought might be, oh no, not the stereotypical interior designer image but this was a great group of professional architects and designers who are passionate about their work and their lives as LGBT and allies in the workplace.
We met at the Eiffel Society, which was on St. Charles. It was good to see the trolley cars running again and yet, the town was nervously watching the cresting of the Mississippi River and worrying about the levees as they open spill ways to dump excess water into Lake Pontchartrain. New Orleans is still an amazing town filled with people who are friendly and working hard to keep their town literally above water.
The group got a chance to tour the building and heard from one of their directors about the history of the space we were meeting in; yes, it is part of the Eiffel Tower. The web site is under construction but you can check them out on Facebook.
I was introduced by Bob Hotes, chair of the new LGBT Sub-committee of the Board Diversity Council. This is the second year they have held the reception and over 50 attendees joined in the evening festivities. I spoke about Out & Equal’s work and invited them to be part of the work of advancing workplace equality. I pointed out that they had the power to influence one of the most contentious issues facing transgender employees in the workplace. Transgender employees and corporations call us continually on how to deal with the “bathroom panic” from other employees when an employee announces their transition. Designing either floor to ceiling stalls and doors or adding single use “family” restrooms helps not only transgender employees but can also provide for improved employment access for many in the disability community.
After my presentation, Marc Maxwell of Maxwell Architects, LLC in Boston came up and told me an incredible story about how he had just helped the largest reform synagogue in Boston retrofit their three floors with family style, non-gendered restrooms. Several of his transgender friends informed him of the issues and he realized that the family design would also help one of the staff members provide better support for her 23 year old disabled son who needed assistance in the restroom, which was problematic with traditional restrooms.
These win-win solutions provide each us with a chance to see how what we do professionally can have a profound effect on workplace equality. We all own a piece of this solution and can make changes through the work we do. Interesting perspective to how we can all get involved and be “out” in our own ways eh?
So came home after a quick weekend but not without the requisite stop at Café Du Monde! Thanks to AIA again for the invite and let’s keep working on our own ways of Building Bridges!