Only when our profession reflects the demographic composition of the society that we serve will we truly be on the right track.

Whitney M. Young, Past President of the National Urban League, in his 1968 keynote address to the American Institute of Architects

The PCA team continues to take positive action to help improve social equity and create a more inclusive, diverse design profession. We have an active and committed JEDI (Justice. Equity. Diversity. Inclusion) Council in the firm.

And we are making an impact – one action at a time.

The JEDI Council’s homegrown mission and goals include ongoing, tangible actions to fight systemic racism, to make lasting changes to our organizational culture regarding JEDI, and to invest our time and resources in providing opportunities for Black, Indigenous and other People of Color.

As a certified JUST 2.0 Organization, we pledged a transparent approach in disclosing our firm’s community investments and social equity practices. In keeping with that promise, we want to share news on the commitments made and substantial actions taken as a company. We also want to welcome our design industry colleagues to team with us on these activities.

Moving Towards a More Diverse, Inclusive Profession
Anyone who is active in the design, construction and commercial real estate professions knows that diversity and inclusion quite visibly lag other industries – including those of our clients. In fact, the presence of People of Color in architecture and related professions remains historically low.

The National Council of Architectural Registration Boards’ (NCARB) tenth annual data report (2021), NCARB by the Numbers, shows the disparity between the architecture profession and the overall U.S. population. Gender diversity improved slightly from 2019, with women comprising 24% of registered architects. Architects identifying as ethnic minorities were 11% of those registered.

However, only 2% of architects identify as Black or African American, a stark contrast with census data showing that Black Americans make up approximately 15% of the U.S. population. Black female representation in our profession, while rising, is less than 1% of registered architects.

A/C/E Mentor Program – PCA is taking action to help spark interest in industrywide efforts and firm-specific initiatives among underrepresented young people in pursuing a career in design and related fields. Among the fastest growing national organizations working on this goal is the ACE Mentor Program, a nonprofit tapping into a network of volunteer mentors in 37 states. ACE, an acronym for Architecture, Construction, and Engineering, is mentoring 10,000 students from 1100 high schools across the country.

In the Greater Boston ACE program, over 75% of participants are students of color, and around half come from families with economic challenges. Slightly more than half of all students are female, a number that has increased for eight years in a row.

PCA team members, including Janine Byrne and others, devote time as volunteer mentors, working in tandem with peers from across the Boston area A/E/C industry. They provide a hands-on, project-based introduction to careers in the design and building industry through classroom and in-the-field sessions.

National Organization of Minority Architects (NOMA) – PCA is an active member of NOMA and supports the involvement of firm staff as individual members and volunteers. This industry association allows PCA to stay informed and educated and provides additional opportunities to join forces for the advancement of minority architectural students and architects in support of their contributions to the built environment.

Boosting the Next Generation
PCA is increasing our longtime engagement with and support of youth programs and opportunities in arts and design. Our partner organizations include:

  • Boston Arts Academy
  • Boston Architectural College (BAC) in collaboration with the Urban League of Eastern Massachusetts
  • BAC NOMAS (student chapter of NOMA)
  • BAC’s YouthBuild Boston Summer Program
  • Children’s Arts Scholarship
  • New Center for Education & Support for People of Color
  • Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Development’s Center for Equity & Prosperity
  • Cristo Rey High School Boston’s Corporate Work Study Program

BAC Summer Academy – In partnership with the Boston Architectural College (BAC), PCA’s Foundation established the YODA (Youth Opportunities for Diversity in Architecture) Fund which sponsors students selected through a collaboration with the Urban League of Eastern Massachusetts to attend the BAC’s Summer Academy. This program provides architectural design and problem-solving exploration of today’s issues impacting society and city life. It is an exciting and rigorous experience for high school students to collaborate alongside other students from all over the city, with BAC faculty and, of course, with local design practitioners who serve as role models and mentors.

Social Equity and Inclusive Design
PCA is proud to join firms nationwide striving for social justice and is committed to continued improvements that will create a healthier future for everyone. One of the ways we activate this goal is with our design work. By harnessing the power of diversity and inclusion when planning and designing PCA projects, we believe we achieve better outcomes for all stakeholders. As architects designing neighborhood-based projects throughout New England, we know that having community representation is critical to sustaining a diverse and thriving civic life.

An example of this practice is our approach to the Mildred C. Hailey Apartments redevelopment project in the Jamaica Plain neighborhood of Boston. PCA’s scope includes the design of 224 apartments and the activation of the property’s public realm. Before designing a single unit, our team worked to reconcile longstanding social equity disparities that date back to the original planning and subsequent history of the site, previously known as the Bromley Health public housing project.

To accomplish a new identity and an equitable standard of daily living, PCA reached out to residents to learn what they wanted to see in their new homes and what would make the new development – within the apartments and in the outside spaces – a safe, comfortable, and cherished place. The team operates from the fundamental idea that the people you are designing for are a primary source for great solutions.

The resulting design strategy is to encourage 24/7 activity that contributes to the active, safe community residents need. The new site will thread the redesigned community, walled off for decades, back into the city and connect it with the Emerald Necklace, the 1100-acre chain of world-renown parks designed by Frederick Law Olmsted.

As we continue to find effective ways to achieve inclusivity and social equity on projects, we are excited to share a new collaboration with the Boston Society for Architecture and Food For Free Committee, Inc. By joining this initiative, the PCA team, along with several other architectural firms and designers “aim to bring good design to broader audiences to help community partners envision and create new places and to amplify the knowledge, expertise and narratives embedded in each of Boston’s vibrant neighborhoods.”

Looking Forward to a Better Future
PCA has consistently engaged in community causes through volunteer activism, financial contributions, and our involvement in industry professional groups supporting the underrepresented. The firm’s culture informed these steps, which we see as a great start. However, we collectively decided we needed to do more.

The death of George Floyd in May of 2020 ignited all of us to acknowledge the harsh truth of systemic racism and social inequities. In response, PCA team members came together to talk about the implications of social justice and to brainstorm what it could mean for us. From these initial discussions, our JEDI initiatives mobilized into action.

As we learn and progress on this journey, we see an opportunity to work in partnership with our peers and partners in the design community. By taking a team approach, we can do great things and recast the image of our profession around the positive impacts we can all create together. If you are interested in joining up with us, send me a note at or give me a call at 617.547.8120.

Let’s continue the momentum of the past year plus by scaling up our actions and working in unison to create a better, more just future.

Laura Homich is the Principal of Sustainability at PCA. In addition to this project-based role, Laura focuses on PCA’s office culture and JEDI work.