Ella B. Scarborough Community Resource Center, Charlotte, North Carolina. Photo by Garrett Rowland.
A building with a sign on the front.

Designing for Racial Equity and Inclusion

As the United States celebrates Juneteenth, a holiday commemorating the end of slavery in the United States — and only a national holiday since it was signed into law in 2021 — we take this time to reflect on Gensler’s ongoing initiatives focused on diversity, equity, inclusion, and the pursuit of racial justice using the power of design.

We have always focused on our People First culture, and valued diverse perspectives, voices, talents, and lived experiences across our teams to enhance the impact of our designs. The principles of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) are directly aligned with our core values and have been embedded in our DNA since the founding of the firm by Art Gensler in 1965.

This commitment took a leap forward in 2020 as, in the wake of George Floyd’s murder, we directly confronted historic injustices and racism that have systematically plagued our society and made a commitment to lead by example as we work towards the change we wanted to see in the world. We hired our first DEI Director, established the Gensler Research Institute’s Center for Research on Equity in the Built Environment, and created our Global Race & Diversity Committee.

Reflecting four years later, there is significant progress still to be made — but we also take this time to celebrate the work that has been done. To that end, two new reports, Designing for Racial Justice and the forthcoming Inclusion by Design, represent our latest efforts to track the progress that we (as both an industry and a firm) have made so far, alongside the opportunities for greater, necessary growth.

People in a room with a brick wall and a couch.
Debbie Allen Dance Academy, Los Angeles. Photo by Ryan Gobuty.

New Research Report: Designing for Racial Justice

As designers and design researchers, a belief in the positive and transformational power of design is central to our ethos as a firm and an industry. The history of design is, however, not a wholly positive one — particularly viewed through the lens of racial equity and justice. The far-reaching impact of previous design decisions is clear, and too often the result has been division, inequity, and solutions that serve some communities well while leaving others behind.

In a new signature report from Gensler Research Institute’s Center for Research on Equity in the Built Environment, Designing for Racial Justice, we leverage years of research, as well as Gensler’s most recent survey data in cities and communities across the U.S., to tell the story of historic and current inequities in our country and profile teams looking to move beyond these challenges with design action and innovation. The movement for racial and ethnic justice is larger than just the United States, and goes beyond the inequities levied against Black people in America, but this is an important place to start.

Ongoing racial disparities in terms of place, prosperity, and resilience are direct consequences of past design decisions. Design presents a transformative opportunity to rectify these injustices and restore prosperity to Black communities. True equity demands more than just providing basic amenities; it requires addressing the injustices built into existing structures and systems. Ultimately, equitable design isn’t just about building physical structures; it’s about reshaping our society to ensure a more prosperous tomorrow.

A group of people sitting on a deck with a table and chairs.
SAFEchild, Raleigh, North Carolina. Photo by Keith Isaacs.

Upcoming Research Report: Inclusion by Design

Gensler launched its first Diversity Report, Leading by Example, in 2021 following the creation of the firm’s Global Race and Diversity Committee and the launch of Gensler’s Strategies to Fight Racism, a robust framework that started within and naturally expanded to our clients, partners, and communities to drive measurable action and impactful change.

The forthcoming Inclusion by Design: 2023-2024 Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Report continues this series and details our efforts to cultivate an inclusive environment at Gensler for our people, create educational opportunities for untapped students, pursue community-based design solutions in our cities and neighborhoods, create opportunities for historically underrepresented professionals, and partner with clients on aligned DEI goals. The publication will also feature enhanced strategies to make the text accessible for all readers, including multiple visual touchpoints/textures, screen reader compatibility for individuals with visual impairments, and multiple navigational elements. As with our previous DEI reports, we publicly share metrics that outline the demographic makeup of our firm. We openly acknowledge focus areas of improvement and opportunities to expand our global DEI initiatives.

Stay tuned for more detail from that report when it’s published later this month.

For media inquiries, email .

Lisa Cholmondeley
Lisa is a principal and design manager who has played a key role in the delivery of several large, complex, mixed-use developments in the Middle East. Lisa is co-director of Gensler’s Center for Research on Equity and the Built Environment and a member of Gensler’s Global Race and Diversity Committee. She is based in Washington D.C. Contact her at .
Jason Pugh
Jason is a principal and the Global Director of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion who promotes Gensler’s commitment to its Strategies to Fight Racism while furthering the firm’s efforts to address unique challenges within each region and community through a global perspective. As the 2021-2022 National President of the National Organization of Minority Architects, Jason is deeply passionate about supporting underserved communities and the next generation of designers and architects. He is based in Chicago. Contact him at .
Roger Smith
Roger is principal and architectural design director in Gensler’s Morristown office with over 30 years of experience on a broad range of projects, from master planning to mixed-used developments. Roger is Co-Director of Gensler’s Center for Research on Equity and the Built Environment and a member of Gensler’s Global Race and Diversity Committee. Contact him at Roger_Smith@gensler.com.