Michael Smith is urging all members of the Australian Institute of Architects to support a campaign for more diverse leadership. We republish his letter to members. 

An open letter to members of the Australian Institute of Architects

Dear members

Today I am taking the unusual step of writing an open letter to other regular members of the Australian Institute of Architects to ask your support for an Institute issue currently in the balance. As you are hopefully aware National Council, led by our President Jon Clements have set about reforming the leadership structure of the institute. This bold move, based on professional governance advice from Clayton Utz, seeks to create an eight person Board of Directors consisting of five National Councillors and three direct appointments with particular skill sets. The purpose of these changes is to create a more effective governance structure for the Institute.

Changes of this magnitude are not a frequent event and any implemented reforms are unlikely to be substantially changed further for many decades. These reforms therefore present as the best opportunity to set the Institute up as being the progressive and well respected 21st century organisation that we need it to be.

In response to the request for member input, the Institutes’ National Committee for Gender Equity put forward the following proposal for consideration.

Given the current structure of the National Council and the methodology for creating the Board membership we would ask that you mandate a minimum 3 seats represented by men and a minimum 3 seats represented by women. We would also ask that an aspirational target be set at 4 women and 4 men, which could be communicated to National Councillors prior to voting in new members of the Board of Directors.

There are many reasons why mandating gender diversity in theInstitutes’ board of directors is of vital importance. I will briefly outline them below

  • The board of directors should be representative of the broader Institute membership.
  • A diverse board is more likely to consider a wider range of viewpoints and to make better decisions.
  • Studies have shown that businesses with diverse boards achieve better financial results than those that are not diverse. Given the Institutes recent financial performance this is vital to achieve a robust organisation.
  • A diverse board would help the Institute become a progressive twenty-first-century organisation. Mandating diversity at the board level, sends a strong message both within the Institute and to external organisations, government bodies and the general public.

Mandating diversity is quickly becoming standard practice for organisations of all sizes. In 2015 the Victorian Government mandated that for all paid board positions and court appointments a minimum of 50% of appointments should be from women. To quote Premier Andrews:

I’m sick of walking into meetings and seeing a room full of blokes sitting around a table. How does that guarantee the best decisions? How does that influence the culture of an organisation for the better?Daniel Andrews, Premier of Victoria

Now is the time for members to have their say on how our Institute proceeds. Will it be a closed shop, or will we make sure that we have the best performing team, which can represent us, make better decisions for us, and provide a sound financial base for our institute well into the future?

If you support this initiative please send an email to constitution@architecture.com.au before 5 April.

To assist your response, you can also use the attached letter template to voice your support for diverse leadership of the Institute.

It is crucial that all members, students, graduates, architects and affiliates all speak up about how they want to be represented by the Australian Institute of Architects, so please also share this letter amongst your colleagues.

Thank you for your time 

Architecture is for Everyone

Michael Smith
Director / Architect
Atelier Red+Black