On 23rd July 2020, Architects’ Journal released findings from their annual race diversity survey with the declaration, “Architecture is systematically racist. So what is the profession going to do about it?” Mark Nagle, Operations Director at urban reflects on their findings.
It’s clear that the Black Lives Matter protests in the US and UK have brought racial inequality back into the public eye, which can only be a good thing. Since the Architects’ Journal and the Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust’s (SLCT) survey started running in 2018, little in terms of the results has changed. But will it?
Having worked in architectural recruitment for a number of years, I believe that many of the issues are clear. The vast majority of practice Directors are white. This creates issues such as unconscious bias. As human beings, we are naturally drawn to recruit in our own image. This may mean being attracted to recruiting individuals who went to the same university or school, grew up in the same area and/or look the same. This is not necessarily a deliberate choice but one where being aware of the issue and taking action to change can have a positive impact.
Lack of representation and diversity within the industry, or even an individual company’s workforce, acts as a genuine barrier to change. I was talking with an experienced Architectural Technologist recently about potential options and proposed a prospective employer to him, a 50 strong practice in Central London. On reviewing the company’s website, he advised me that there were no people of colour within the company and that this made him feel uncomfortable about even applying to work for them.
The Architects’ Journal race diversity survey covers a whole range of issues which affect positive diversity and inclusion. The issues range from architectural education, representation and visible BAME architectural role models. 83% of survey respondents advised they felt that being black and/or [from a] minority ethnic [group] created barriers to career progression in the architecture industry.
Giving young people from under-represented groups opportunities to thrive in a career within architecture is one of the key reasons the SLCT was formed, and why more recently, together with urban, we created the #BeMoreInclusive programme, which sees urban forming partnerships with like-minded architectural businesses with inclusivity central to their strategic culture.
Since the #BeMoreInclusive programme was launched at the end of June, the extent of lack of opportunity for BAME applications has become clear. Talking to talented, engaging, young architecture graduates has been inspiring but also eye-opening. One candidate we are supporting has straight As in their A-Levels, and achieved a First in their architecture degree in 2019. Despite this, they still haven’t achieved their year out placement and instead are having to work in retail. Not only have they struggled to find a role, they have had just one interview in the entire year’s period. With their level of academic success, this is clearly baffling.
One of the reasons urban is offering free support to young BAME architectural candidates, and donating a portion of the revenue generated from placements made at architectural partners within the #BeMoreInclusive programme to the SLCT, is to make a sustainable, mid to long-term change to the industry that will benefit everyone. A diverse workforce is a better workforce.
As outlined by Sonia Watson, CEO of the SLCT, there are eight steps to diversify your practice. The one that we take particular pride in suggested, “Consider recruiting through urban”. If equal opportunities, inclusion and diversity are important to your business, we are here to partner with you and take positive action to make a difference.
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