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Bespoke Careers

01 July 2020

01 July 2020

Challenges of 2020 and beyond

Bespoke Talks

At the end of June, Bespoke Careers held a roundtable discussion with leading NYC firms. Participants talked about two of the major challenges they're facing right now: the safe reopening of their workplaces and the effort to address racial injustice and inclusion within the architecture and design industry.


It was a chance to openly discuss the issues, share plans, and exchange useful resources to help each other navigate these challenges.


Here are some highlights from the discussion on reopening the workplace:

  • There is a high variable in return dates, varying from the beginning of phase 2 NYC reopening to after Labor Day.
  • For most, return to the workplace is likely to be optional to begin with. When firms are ready to return towards the end of the year, there will be a staggered approach .
  • Firm leaders should be prepared to have more conversations with employees to understand each person’s comfort level about returning.
  • New York State protocols need to be followed and plans must be in place. Clear guidance is available at forward.ny.gov.
  • Policies will also be required for local site visits and travel to other states. This may lead to further conversations with clients about safety on sites.
  • Firms need to consider how they deal with those not following protocols. Need to make this transparent.

The discussion on racial injustice and inclusion highlighted the limited diversity in the industry.  Topics ranged from removing barriers to entry into the profession to the lack of diversity in positions of leadership. 


Here are some action points from the discussion on racial justice and inclusion:

  • Encourage employees to get involved in volunteering and supporting programs at high school level to highlight architecture and design as a career choice.
  • Actively encourage recruitment from a wider selection of colleges. Reach out to HBCU's, community colleges, and engage with BIPOC student organizations.
  • When presenting resumes to the hiring team use a blind shortlisting, removing candidate names and college attended to help minimize unconscious bias.
  • Ensure that roundtables, hiring panels, and your recruitment teams are themselves diverse.
  • Conduct a pay analysis of current staff – review and take action to address inequalities.
  • Conduct a demographics survey – review and take action when recruiting and promoting.
  • Train employees on unconscious bias, microaggressions, and being an ally in the workplace. 
  • Create Employee Resource Groups within your firm to provide safe space for employees to raise issues and speak up.
  • Support the National Organization of Minority Architects (NOMA) and their regional chapters.

Author: Alastair Wallace, Managing Director, Bespoke Careers

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