The Parity Group is a grassroots initiative, born at the heart of the Department of Architecture (D-ARCH) of the ETH Zurich. Started in 2014 by some of the D-ARCH junior teaching staff, the Parity Group has since steadily established itself as a platform and a network within the educational institution: a platform for debate and action around issues of parity, diversity, inequality and institutional critique; and a network and meeting point for the school’s diverse elements: the students, assistants, lecturers and teachers who want to foreground these essential topics.
In 2016, the Parity Group established the ParityTalks, a symposium devoted to diversity and gender equality, which it has since hosted annually on March 8 – International Women’s Day. In convening international and local guests for this yearly public debate, the Parity Talks forum has become a notable event in the Swiss architectural calendar, and contributes to advancing debate on diversity and inclusion within the architectural community.
The outcomes of the first edition of the Parity Talks enabled the Parity Group to compile and launch the 9 Points for Parity manifesto, a strategic list of measures designed to improve the gender balance within the D-ARCH. Today, these nine points for parity have been implemented, by and large. Firstly, enforcing the creation of an official Parity and Diversity Commission and pushing for parity in the selection of jury members, invited critics and new hires. Secondly, taking steps towards an inclusionary approach with more diverse studio briefs, and making space for a broader range of viewpoints and topics in the – at times, student-led – seminars.
In parallel, the Parity Group has continuously promoted a variety of formats and events at the ETH, from film screenings to book clubs, and from workshops to literacy forums, to foster a climate in which debate and action on diversity and parity are part and parcel of the school. In 2021, the Parity Group was instrumental in setting the framework for an external assessment of the D-ARCH by Engagement Arts, a Belgian movement tackling sexism and other structural power abuses in the arts and design. The D-ARCH Dean subsequently took action and is currently implementing the report’s recommendations in the department.
The continuous engagement and work of the Parity Group have brought about a sea change at the D-ARCH, with a ripple effect within the school that has extended to the architectural community in general, as well as to other educational institutions in Switzerland and abroad, which have followed in the Zurich group’s footsteps by setting up parity and diversity initiatives of their own. The Parity Group has been a prime example of how grassroots movements can thrive and have an impact within a large-scale institution, promoting a network of solidarity and shared interests, and forever changing the conversation around parity and diversity within the D-ARCH and beyond.