Parity Group

Parity Group
© Parity Group

Parity Group

“We’ve seen a shift over the last few years, from the early days, when certain topics were just not on the agenda, to the conversation that is now happening, at last. The Parity Group went from being the instigator of these kinds of conversations to being a platform on which a lot of different initiatives began to flourish.”

“To this day, the Parity Group remains a grassroots collective, a fluid, non-tokenizable, and hard-to-pin-down thing that is everyone’s and no one’s, and where many different kinds of people operate as placeholders for one another. Simultaneously, we have become something of an institution inside the insti­tution, a truly effective force. And therein lies our strength.”

Biography

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.