2024 RAIC Advocate for Architecture Award: BEAT

Building Equality for Architecture Toronto promotes equity in the profession through community building activities, advocacy, networking and mentorship.

Winner of the 2024 RAIC Advocate for Architecture Award

Current and recent BEAT executive and advisory committee members include Dimitra Papantonis, Kiana Mozayyan, Camille Mitchell, Brigitte Shim, Jennifer Esposito, Shirley Blumberg, Angela Gou, Safoura Zahedi, Andrea Bancod, Ramona Adlakha, Heather Dubbeldam, Persis Lam, Elsa Lam, Stephanie Hosein, Kyra Clarkson, Nina Boccia, Carol Phillips, Maya Mahgoub-Desai, Mahsa Malek, Melanie Rank, Betsy Williamson, Sonia Ramundi, Vineetha Sivathasan, and Valerie Gow.

Building Equality in Architecture Toronto (BEAT) was founded in 2015 as a grassroots initiative to promote equity for women and historically marginalized people in the architecture profession. BEAT’s mandate is to create lasting systemic and transformational change with purpose-driven action, openness, compassion, and respect.

Since its founding, BEAT has helped chart a path for other Canadian organizations focused on holding difficult conversations pertaining to race and societal stereotypes in the design community, including the Black Architects + Interior Designers Association (BAIDA) and the Society of South Asian Architects (SOSA). As these organizations have become established, BEAT’s current mandate has shifted towards carrying an emphasis on women in the profession, though the topics and themes of its programming remain universal, and its events welcome diverse audiences. Guided by the belief that empowering women improves and enriches the practice of architecture, the built environment, and ultimately the human condition, BEAT creates opportunities for community-building activities, advocacy, networking, and mentorship.

Steelcase hosted a BEAT Mix in 2019, including five featured guests in different zones. Photo courtesy BEAT
A smaller group gathers with special guest Ana-Francisca de la Mora at a BEAT Mix. Photo courtesy BEAT

In the past nine years, BEAT has expanded its initiatives and activities and has grown to include a robust Executive and Advisory committee comprised of dedicated architects, designers, leaders, academics, and entrepreneurs volunteering their time for a shared cause. BEAT has developed and programmed more than 110 initiatives, including five Leadership Seminars, five Forums, 42 Talks, ten Mixes, three Workshops, and 27 Special Events, among others. The organization has provided a platform for 90+ national and international guest speakers and experts to share knowledge, personal stories, and lessons from the field, advancing the discourse on equity, diversity, and inclusion. “No complaining” is BEAT’s unwritten rule, with the focus primarily on levelling inequities through powerful actions.

BEAT’s activities initially aimed to address prevalent inequities and challenges, encompassing issues such as limited opportunities and unconscious bias, as well as challenges related to attrition at a critical point in the careers of women architects, the wage gap, and a lack of women mentors. Over time, BEAT’s initiatives have expanded to include a nuanced exploration of topics such as achieving work-life balance, managing parenting with the demands of our profession, cultivating one’s voice, improving soft skills, and fostering leadership. Today, BEAT plays a pivotal role in connecting aspiring professionals with industry leaders, nurturing professional development and offering clear opportunities for mentorship, which were limited in the past.

Founded in Toronto in 2015, BEAT has emerged as a force in Canadian architectural discourse, making a significant contribution to national architecture.

A BEAT Dinner provided opportunities for informal conversation with Marina Tabassum. Photo courtesy BEAT
BEAT’s biannual Leadership Seminar is one of the organization’s most popular events. Photo by Scott Norsworthy
Beat Forum 2019: Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Jury Comment :: BEAT has established itself as a significant voice supporting equity in the architecture profession. As a group, they highlight the structural inequalities that continue to disadvantage women, inspire us to reflect and to action for change. Their discussions and perspectives connect and centre human dimensions for a better way forward and their enthusiastic encouragement and mentorship of young female architects as they navigate a demanding profession is vital.

Members of the organization’s executive committee and advisory committee, along with volunteers, celebrate at a BEAT Cross-Pollination Party, which encourages attendees to bring guests from outside of the AED community. Photo by Alana de Hahn

ADVISORY COMMITTEE Heather Dubbeldam (Dubbeldam Architecture + Design), Elsa Lam (Canadian Architect), Shirley Blumberg (KPMB Architects), Nina Boccia (KPMB Architects), Betsy Williamson (Williamson Williamson), Camille Mitchell (SvN Architects + Planners), Kyra Clarkson (Kyra Clarkson Architect), Valerie Gow (Gow Hastings Architects), Brigitte Shim (Shim-Sutcliffe Architects), Carol Phillips (Moriyama Teshima Architects), Sonia Ramundi (Zed-G Architects), Stephanie Hosein (Omar Gandhi Architect)

EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE Jennifer Esposito (Toronto Metropolitan University, Place of Work Architecture Studio), Ramona Adlakha (KPMB Architects), Angela Gou (KPMB Architects), Melanie Rank (BDP Quadrangle), Mahsa Malek (Syracuse University), Kiana Mozayyan (University of Toronto), Maya Mahgoub-Desai (OCAD University, Moriyama Teshima Architects), Safoura Zahedi (Safoura Zahedi Studio), Vineetha Sivathasan (RAW Design), Persis Lam (Diamond Schmitt Architects), Dimitra Papantonis (Architecture Counsel)


CURRENT VOLUNTEERS Mariam Abdelrahman, Neha Bhargava, Laura Fiset, Snober Khan, Chaitanya Krishna Kumar, Shivathmikha Kumar, Vannary Lyboun, Caileigh MacKella, Andrea Mata Celis, Tshanda Mbuyi, Romina Mehrbod, Giovanna Monaco, Mouna Naoui, Callista Permana, Samantha Tam, Treya Vyas, Elaine Welsher, Angela Yue Gou 

PAST ADVISORY AND EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE MEMBERS Meg Graham (Superkul), Pat Hanson (*gh3), Ana Maria Llanos (Diamond Schmitt Architects), Eladia Smoke (Smoke Architecture), Jane Wolff (University of Toronto), Illana Altman (The Bentway), Joy Charbonneau (Gensler), Louise Clavin, Alena Crowne (Lemay), Rachel Cyr (KPMB Architects), Timea Jakab, Rebecca Lai (Metrix), Fotini Pitoglou (Forrec), Sharon Philip (SRM Architect), Shawna Seligman (gh3*), Danielle Whitley (SvN Architects + Planners)

As appeared in the May 2024 issue of Canadian Architect magazine