June 25, 2021

Architect Magazine: Empowering Positive DEI Cultures in Design

Sharla Toller, our Director of Design, Equity and Inclusion (DEI), is featured extensively in a new piece from Architect magazine that highlights best practices for hiring and empowering DEI leaders into design firms.

Sharla joined CannonDesign earlier this year and is especially focused on amplifying CannonDesign’s DEI framework, which outlines our commitments to fostering equity and inclusion within our firm, breaking down barriers for entry into the profession, and providing support to underrepresented communities in the cities where we live and work.

“We are incredibly committed to moving the needle on diversity, equity and inclusion within our firm and across our industry,” said Brad Lukanic, CEO of CannonDesign at the time of Sharla’s hire. “Sharla is a forward thinking and inspirational leader who comes to us from outside our industry, bringing a fresh perspective that we believe will not only align with our DEI Framework but propel us forward with clear actions and outcomes.”

The full Architect piece is online. Here are key excerpts and best practices shared by Sharla in the article:

On the importance of communication
“Leadership should lay the foundation by making the importance of DEI known to the organization through messaging. Firm leaders should also be ready to engage in dialogue that they may find challenging. “[Their] inability to communicate effectively across difference, whether that’s a fear that their words might land in a way that’s not intended, can lead to people from underrepresented backgrounds not getting feedback, not being mentored, and not being developed in a way they need to be in order to advance within the organization,” Toller says.

On activating DEI at CannonDesign
In her role, Toller plans to conduct ongoing measurement of CannonDesign’s DEI initiatives with an interactive dashboard that informs senior leaders on employee demographics so they may strategize on recruitment efforts appropriately. The company’s initiatives include creating affinity resource and networking groups, implementing ongoing DEI learning sessions, and celebrating heritage months.

Toller will also direct the firm’s leadership to use data from firmwide surveys “to think critically about what could be driving the differences in perception and experiences across various demographic groups within the firm,” she says. “We will be holding our leaders accountable for change over time, in a way that will shift the culture and change mindsets in a positive direction.”

Learn more about our focus on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion >