Her observations are supported by a comprehensive study conducted by the AIA in 2016 which examined the lack of diversity, perception of lack of diversity, and factors that affect career advancement for minorities, specifically minority women. The study adds to Ray’s list of obstacles for women of color the lack of opportunities for internal advancement, lower pay, poor work/life balance for mothers, and few women--specifically minority women--in leadership roles. The recently-published 2018 Equity in Architecture Survey confirmed little progress in these areas, citing disconcerting findings like, “women with master’s degrees reported lower salaries than men with bachelor’s degrees across all experience levels.”
Masters Degrees Mean Less for Women in Architecture
Source: Architect Magazine, AIASF Equity by Design Releases 2018 Equity in Architecture Survey Findings
“Architecture is a traditionally white, male field. It involves a lot of long hours and there’s a lot of pressure to maintain that commitment. HCM has recently launched a family leave policy that would provide [in addition to what HCM already offers] paid time off for parents for birth, adoption, surrogacy and bonding,” HCM Director of Human Resources Erika Misewich said. “The industry needs to catch up to the times, and we want HCM to be a leader in these efforts. The design profession needs to make it more accessible and accommodating to a range of people.”
Racial & Ethnic Diversity at Early Career Stages
(Source: NCARB) While the percentage of minorities classified as “new record holders’ has increased, the numbers drop off significantly at the certification point.
Working Toward Solutions - A National Movement
How can the industry improve diversity and aid in the success of minorities already within the profession? While conversations about increasing diversity are commonplace in recruitment language and in mission statements, words alone do not attract and sustain diversity. The AIA and organizations like the National Organization of Minority Architects (NOMA) are working towards actionable strategies to develop sustainable and effective solutions.
For example, the 2016 AIA study outlined the following strategies:
• Develop a mentorship program for women in firms.
• Offer credentials for architects who wish to return to the profession after taking an extended leave of absence.
• Provide clear written criteria for promotion.
• Offer industry-funded college scholarships for women interested in studying architecture.
• Attract more women professors to teach in accredited architecture programs.
The AIA also passed a resolution to promote more women of color to leadership positions. Notably not a quota program, the AIA is effectively encouraging its members and member organizations to “identify, recruit and encourage talented minority women to pursue higher levels of leadership.” The intent? To “support the Institute’s commitment to diversity and inclusion by calling for the implementation of a plan to develop a national leadership pipeline of ethnically diverse women candidates for national governance positions.”
Significant lobbying efforts from the AIA and other organizations helped push Congress to pass H.R.2353, the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education (CTE) Act, which formally recognizes architecture as a Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) Program. Architecture has always represented the intersection of several specialties, but the formal recognition will open greater funding and increase resources for architecture.
From Policy to Practice – Translating Initiatives to Outcomes
Initiatives and policies implemented by the AIA and other national bodies affect change on a macro level, but significant and lasting improvement requires commitment at the firm and individual level.
“I think a lot of people aren’t actively thinking about it because it’s not affecting them directly. They see women and people of color in the office and think we’re doing better. But that’s not enough, we need to ask ourselves, do we truly go out of our way to recruit, include, promote women and minorities?” Misewich said.
The 2016 AIA study found a significant difference between men and women regarding the perceived representation of women in the industry. Though representation is increasing, it is not equitable, especially in leadership roles for women of all races.
Lack of awareness and acknowledgment of implicit biases present a significant barrier to progression. Two HCMers, Valerie Kirkley and Hilary Zoretic serve as co-chairs for AIA Baltimore’s Equity Committee, which recently hosted a three-part series on implicit bias, a training they hope to bring firmwide.
“We really wanted to focus on actionable strategies for implementation [with the Implicit Bias Training Series]. Things that people could take back to the office and actually use to improve themselves and their firms,” Zoretic said.
Architects are designing spaces to learn, live and care for people of all ages, races, religious affiliations and ability levels. When diversity is reduced to a numbers game, it degrades the impact and importance diverse perspective brings to the design table.