Significantly more women than men noted gender disparity in the industry, while a majority of respondents agreed that minorities are under-represented. The question remains: What are we going to do about it?
By HALLIE BUSTA
THE JOURNAL OF THE AMERICAN INSTITUTE OF ARCHITECTS, March 9, 2016
It’s been a decade since the AIA took an in-depth, by-the-numbers look at diversity in the architectural profession. This week, the Institute released results from an online survey of more than 7,500 practitioners examining how demographics like race and gender influence perceptions—and, ultimately, the state—of equity in the field. The “Diversity in the Profession of Architecture Report” found that although representation is improving for women and minorities (who the survey calls “people of color”) both groups remain underrepresented in the profession.
The report follows work by other agencies and the AIA itself to raise awareness around the challenges faced by women and minorities in the field. Last spring, AIA San Francisco’s Equity by Design (EQxD) committee, formerly The Missing 32% Project, released a report detailing women’s experience in the architectural profession and identifying five “pinch points” between graduation and licensure that cause more women to leave the field than men. A state-of-the-industry by the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards released in July painted an improving picture, with greater instances of racial, ethnic, and gender diversity in the field—though it’s far from parity. The goal of these and other initiatives to effect change took a step closer to reality in December, when the AIA passed its “Resolution 15-1: Equity in Architecture,” calling for “women and men to realize the goal of equitable practice.” Its first order of business was to establish the Commission on Equity in Architecture, which will use data from the “Diversity in the Profession of Architecture Report,” along with other demographic information, to recommend ways to make the practice more equitable and to develop benchmarks for measuring progress.
The AIA’s latest report finds the perceived under-representation of minorities to be more clearcut than that of women. More than two-thirds of women surveyed said they believed that gender equity was lacking in the profession, while men were split. Meanwhile, a majority of respondents regardless of race or gender agreed that minorities were underrepresented.
Respondents who said women were under-represented cited three primary reasons: concern about work-life balance, long work hours that made it difficult to start a family, and a lack of flexibility in work hours, telecommuting, and job-sharing options. Other reasons include a stall in advancement opportunities when women return from taking leave to start a family, a lack of female role models, and generally lower pay compared to men for the same work.
Among the strategies that group cited for attracting and retaining female talent are encouraging changes to office culture that foster work-life balance and increasing flexibility in working hours and location. Explains the survey: “The majority of architects feel that managing work-life balance is more difficult for them compared with other professions and wish for greater job flexibility in the industry.”
For minorities, reasons for under-representation in the profession were found primarily to be existing barriers to entry, such as financing architecture school or justifying the expense compared to the perceived return; a lack of role models; and insufficient knowledge of architecture as a career path. Strategies to address this include creating more scholarship opportunities for this group, increasing community outreach, and attracting more minority professors to teach in accredited architecture programs.
The report also explored challenges to career advancement for both groups, including finding jobs, attaining equitable pay, getting promoted to senior positions, and, specifically for women, being steered toward interior design and its related fields instead of architecture.
Of the 7,522 participants, 41.4 percent were women and 20.2 percent were minorities (of those who specified a gender or race). Respondents had to either have a degree in architecture, be pursuing one, had started one but didn’t finish, worked in the field, or had planned to pursue a degree in architecture but didn’t enter the field.
Read the full report at www.aia.org/aiaucmp/groups/aia/documents/pdf/aiab108092.pdf.
Hallie Busta is an associate editor of products and technology at ARCHITECT, Architectural Lighting, and Residential Architect. Follow her on Twitter at @HallieBusta.