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We need to change the mix, not dilute it with more architects


The 2001 RIBA Employment and Earnings survey makes familiar reading. Architects don't earn enough, and the profession is disproportionately - and unacceptably - male (87%) and white (97%). There are various initiatives to address the imbalance: the Construction Industry Training Board, for example, is launching a mentoring scheme and career development programme for ethnic minorities, while the RIBA's Women in Architecture Group is trying to encourage schoolgirls to consider architecture as a career.

But do we need more architects? We know what happens to pay when supply exceeds demand. It simply doesn't make sense to bleat about poor salaries while calling for more people to enter the profession.We just want to change the mix.Which means that every new person who is tempted into the profession has to be matched by somebody who might have been an architect but who is nudged, cajoled or forced into doing something else.

The RIBA is concerned about the disproportionately high percentage of women who 'disappear'between entering Part 1 and finishing Part 3.There are two ways to combat this inequality. One is to encourage women to stay the course. The other is to ensure that more (white) males leave after parts 1 or 2 - but not to put it quite like this.The tendency to talk about architectural education in terms of Parts 1,2 and 3 underlines the perception that a person who has completed three - or even five - years of study is not a graduate, or even a post-graduate, but a partially-qualified dropout. It is a stigma which forces unsuitable candidates to persevere with a profession to which they are ill-suited, and squeezes out others who may have flourished.We are constantly on the lookout for role models for women and ethnic minorities who are considering an architectural career. But it is just as important to draw attention to those who have completed a degree (or two) in architecture and have gone on to have successful and fulfilling careers elsewhere. Rigorous, equitable culling is an essential part of the process of making sure that the best men or women for the job eventually make the grade.

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