There’s a long way to go to achieving equitable representation in the architectural profession. That’s the perhaps unsurprising conclusion from the AIA’s “Diversity in the Profession of Architecture” survey, released last week and featuring responses from 7,500 practitioners polled via email about how demographics like race and gender influence the perception and, ultimately, the state of equity in architecture. Among the biggest takeaways: More women than men reported a gender imbalance at work; all respondents said that minorities were underrepresented; and men (white men followed by minority men) claimed higher job satisfaction than did women (white women followed by minority women). We checked in with Tania Salgado, AIA, chair of the AIA Diversity Council and a principal at Handprint Architecture, in Denver, to discuss what architects can learn from the report. She responded to our questions in an email.
It’s been 10 years since the last wholesale review of this kind. Why did the committee decide to do another survey now?
As part of our repositioning efforts and our commitment to our members, we felt it was a good time to see where the profession stands as a whole on this issue. Things like this can only be measured over several years to see what progress is or isn’t being made. As was suggested in the 2005 survey, the 2015 survey expanded the participation to include the architecture collaterals—[Ed. Note: This includes the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards, the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture, the National Organization of Minority Architects, and the American Institute of Architecture Students]—to garner a broader representation of the profession.
How do these responses compare to the sentiments in the previous report?
Because of the drastically different nature of the two surveys and the questions that were asked, we can’t make a direct comparison, data-wise. And while there have been some improvements with greater numbers of women and minorities represented in the profession and in leadership positions, it is obvious that there is room for improvement.
What’s the biggest thing firm leaders should be taking away from this report?
Urgency. That, and a realization that the profession is seriously underrepresented and it is in our collective best interest to foster a more inclusive workplace across the entire AEC industry.
What has been the effect of initiatives to promote diversity in architecture, such as AIA San Francisco's Equity by Design (EQxD). Does this survey show any of that realized, or will those effects be felt in the longer term?
EQxD is a great example of a grassroots movement that can help draw attention to this issue. The effects are likely to be felt in the long term, but in the short term these sorts of initiatives are allowing voices to be heard and elevate the discussion to a national level so that firm owners can become better informed about the issues of inclusion. The AIA is also working with the Women’s Leadership Summit Committee, which has tremendous momentum focusing on equity in inclusion for women in architecture, selling out its major conference in 2015 with over 300 attendees. [Read ARCHITECT's coverage of the event here.]
The data shows widespread recognition that minorities are underrepresented in architecture, but is less clear on whether women are underrepresented, despite the fact that both groups are, albeit to different degrees. What accounts for this difference in perception?
There is a clear difference in perspective of men and women on this issue (regardless of race) about gender equity. Note, it is possible that men don’t see a representation issues because they have not experienced it. The issues could also be generational, where the more senior generation participated in the industry when women were a smaller proportion of the overall workforce. With the younger generation experiencing a nearly even split of men and women (55 percent to 45 percent) in architecture schools, the future trend may show different perspectives evolving.
The AIA Equity in Architecture Commission is reviewing the data and will use the survey’s findings to develop a well-thought-out set of recommendations that will be presented to the AIA board in the fourth quarter of this year. The overall intent of the Commission is to create a greater sense of urgency within the profession and AEC community at-large about the tremendous need to have a better representation of our population within the architecture field. We will also work as a group to accelerate representation by bolstering the pipeline through scholarships and developing tools at the firm-level to effect real change.