Examining gender inclusion in learning spaces, this investigation identifies unjust and marginalizing gendered patterns in the pursuit of cultivating a more comprehensive sense of belonging, inclusiveness, and equity in built environments.
With global social crises on the rise over the past decade, architects and designers are seeking to address various issues facing society through design. Upon receiving stakeholder feedback while designing a school, Julia Pascutto and the award winning design and architecture firm Gould Evans, took it upon themselves to investigate the relatively uncharted area of study of gender inclusion in learning environments. Sapna Cheryan and her work on gendered messaging in space decoration, amongst others, provided the foundation that the project sought to extend into the more permanent elements of space construction and design.
The Gender Inclusive Design Study (GIDS) was formed through a Gould Evans initiative and is now a FLDWRK research project under Pascutto at Lemay. Through FLDWRK’s New Apertures research theme, the group questions the built environment’s deep roots in culture and identity. The ultimate goal of this pursuit is to increase awareness across all space typologies and apply an informed understanding in design practices.
Out of the team’s research stream, The Instrument took shape. Its purpose is to quantify and explore to what extent people with varying gender identities feel a sense of belonging in learning environments. The Instrument allows the team to collect comparable data over a large geographic and age range. It consists of a measuring scale that is activated through prompt questions in reaction to a variety of visuals. While research is currently ongoing, The Instrument’s initial studies measured, observed, and identified correlations and relationships between spaces and a sense of belonging.
The objective for GIDS is to affect tangible change in the world by making gender and inclusion foundational considerations when creating a space. Julia and the Gould Evans team, however, have been met with the exceptional context of the global pandemic and how it has resulted in funding cuts for higher education. Nevertheless, post-secondary education institutions aspire to bolster applicant and admission rates of women in STEM.
GIDS is a necessary step in the pursuit of a more inclusive and equitable built environment. The findings can be influential in identifying unjust and marginalizing gendered patterns and cultivating a more comprehensive sense of belonging. Questions of how we can design our way into a better tomorrow could potentially be addressed by GIDS’s research, and The Instrument’s findings could also be applicable to the workplace for employers seeking to uncover contributory factors behind sectors with a male dominant workforce. The application of the research is not limited to the education environment, but it is a starting point for framing the broader conversation.