I received an invitation this past week to participate in the 2018 Equity in Architecture survey. This is the third edition of the survey, which is a product of AIA San Francisco and its Equity by Design committee. The previous surveys (conducted in 2014 and 2016) have contributed to the shaping of a broad movement whose aim is to promote sustainable and satisfying careers in architecture for all practitioners. The surveys generated a comprehensive national dataset detailing current positions and career experiences of architecture school graduates. The 2018 enquiry will extend the examination into differences in the experiences of architectural professionals based on gender, race, ethnicity, and sexuality. I dutifully responded and look forward to the results of the survey analysis when they become available.
Rosa Sheng, AIA, LEED AP BD+C
Despite most architects self-identifying as social progressives, the fact remains there is a persistent and striking inequity of representation in architectural practice. For example, women presently comprise only 12–18 percent of AIA members, licensed architects, and senior firm leadership. Women and people of color continue to lag white men in terms of concrete measures of career success (such as annual salary and likelihood of leaving a firm). With minority groups set to occupy a majority of the U.S. population by 2044, there is and will be an increasing need to provide access to opportunities, not only in the architecture profession but also to all the constituencies architects serve. Equity is for everyone, and equity does matter to the design of our built environment.
“Equity” and “equality” have long been used interchangeably, but the terms are often confused with each other. While the focus of equality is framed with sameness being the end goal, equity may be defined as a state in which all people, regardless of their socioeconomic, racial, or ethnic grouping, have fair and just access to the resources and opportunities necessary to thrive. Beyond equity’s newer association with pluralism, it has long been connected to financial capital, as well as to collective ownership, vested interest, and a sense of value or self-worth. One size does not fit all.
The lack of equity in architectural practice has made it prone to losing talent to other seemingly more lucrative career paths. This is due to multiple factors that challenge retention: long hours, low pay, lack of transparency for promotion, and work that is misaligned with professional goals. As a consequence, the profession as a whole may inadequately represent to the public the importance of design to inform equitable, just, and sustainable public and private spaces.
- Men tend to have more positive opinions of their careers but gender wasn’t the top predictor
- Men are more likely to feel like they have a seat at the table
- Men and women reported different career aspirations at different points in their careers
- Wage gap: Males made more money at average in every single project role (the biggest difference being reported among design principals)
- The top predictors for burnout/lack of engagement include not having friendships at work, not knowing performance evaluation criteria, and an absence of feedback
- Men with only a bachelor’s degree earned more on average than women with a master’s degree
- Mothers much more likely than fathers to leave a job because of work-life challenges
- The glass ceiling persists: firms continue to be mostly led by men
- Interestingly, non-white men are less likely to be a principal than white men, white women, and women-of-color (which means I’ve managed to buck the odds)
The findings are open source and free as a resource to everyone.
In Rosa’s words, we are all part of the problem if we are not part of the solution. The survey results may be eye-opening for some, and should be a call to action for everyone. They do provide us with tools for change: support for additional research, sharing of findings, and the means to measure progress and make changes. Periodically repeating the survey process will facilitate reassessment.
Equity should be an ethos underlying all our work. Equity speaks to collective ownership, vested interest, and knowledge of our worth. Equitable practice promotes the recruitment and retention of the most diverse talent while building stronger, successful, sustainable practices. If, like me, you received an invitation to complete the 2018 survey, do make a point to complete it. You will contribute to a value proposition that will strengthen our profession, its relevance, and societal influence. If you choose to participate, only do so once. Equity by Design’s goal is to collect more than 10,000 unique responses.
To preserve statistical integrity, Equity by Design is not providing a link to the 2018 survey on social media; I likewise will not provide the link. There are several factors for this, including self-selection bias and other forms of tampering. For example: More women may be interested in the issues of equity than men and therefore are more aware of the survey. In 2014, more women took the survey than men because of this interest. Since there are more men in the profession than women, this would influence the analysis and skew the results of the survey. Accordingly, the available options for taking the survey are limited to the following:
- You receive an email (as I did) with the survey link from one of EQxD’s distribution partners (AIA National, AIA state or local chapters, NCARB, ACSA, or NOMA.)
- You receive an email with survey link from your employer
- You receive an email with survey link from the architecture school(s) where you earned your degree
- You are a firm owner/leader who signed on to participate with EQxD to distribute the email with survey link to ALL staff.
The survey is open for a total of five weeks, which started this past week and ends on March 16. On average, the online survey should take 20-25 minutes to complete. EQxD will keep all responses entirely confidential. The Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture (ACSA) serves as EQxD’s research partner for the project. The organizations will reveal the survey findings at the 2018 Equity by Design Symposium in San Francisco this November. The results will also be available online, and in a full report in the spring of 2019.
For more information about the survey, visit www.eqxdesign.com.