Bringing together a group of 30 interior designers and manufacturer representatives, the 19th International Interior Design Association (IIDA) Industry Roundtable, held Friday, Jan. 8 through Sunday, Jan. 10 in Chicago, tackled the often-personal, sometimes uncomfortable topic of diversity in the Interior Design industry.
“Diversity is not only about race and gender, but also diversity of thought and discipline. It is in that spirit that IIDA brings together a group of interior designers, architects, and manufacturers to discuss a topic that can be difficult to address in a way that is productive,” said IIDA Executive Vice President and CEO Cheryl Durst, Hon. FIIDA, LEED AP, who moderated the lively group discussion. “As industry professionals, we talk to clients about how to live beyond definition and expectation, and that is why this topic is so germane to who we are and what we do.”
Durst set the tone for the Roundtable by playing Mellody Hobson’s TED talk, Color Brave.
Speakers Gabrielle Bullock, FAIA, NOMA, LEED AP BD+C, Director of Global Diversity, Perkins+Will, and Shauna Stallworth, IIDA, Principal, LUHF & LUMM LLC, shared their experiences as African-American women in interior design who are creating opportunities for cultural awareness and inclusiveness both in their own firms and across the industry.
“I’m used to being the only one in the room,” said Bullock. “I want more people who look like me to have the opportunity to be in the room. I see myself as a change agent and an advocate of diversity.”
“Race enters every single equation so if we’re not comfortable talking about it we’re never going to get to a solution,” said Stallworth.
Both Stallworth and Bullock highlighted the need not just for diversity, but also inclusion.
“Diversity is the mix. Inclusion is what you do with the mix,” said Bullock.
Participants were inspired to go beyond conversation with the 30 designers and manufacturer representatives forming the Interior Design industry’s first-ever Diversity Council on the final day of the Roundtable. The newly formed Council, chaired by Stacy Walker, Ind. IIDA, Director of Customer Experience at Milliken, has been charged with creating a diversity policy statement for the Interior Design profession and will tackle goals ranging from funding diversity research and promoting diversity resources to creating a curriculum that encourages students of diverse backgrounds to pursue careers in design.
An executive report on the 19th IIDA Industry Roundtable will be released in March 2016.