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Action group sets five-year 'equality in architecture' goal

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NEWS

Women in Architecture, the campaigning and networking group, has declared that it wants women to make up 50 per cent of the architectural profession by 2006. Women currently constitute just 13 per cent of the sector, according to figures released by the RIBA. This compares badly with the performance of other sectors (see graph, below).

WIA chair Angela Brady said the RIBA had to drop its 'boys' club' image and tackle under-representation by targeting schools, colleges and practices. She also suggested a 35-hour week. 'The 50 per cent target is a tall order, but we think it can be achieved. You've got to aim high. You can't aim for only a few percentage points each year because you wouldn't get anywhere, ' said Brady.

Practices should promote female role models and stop using 'ridiculous excuses' for not employing women, such as their right to maternity leave, she said. And colleges should endeavour to recruit more female teaching staff in an effort improve stay-on rates. Currently, women make up one-third of architecture students.

The RIBA statistics, from its new Employment and Earnings Survey, also reveal damning figures on black and Asian minorities. Just one per cent of architects are Asian while less one per cent are black - levels branded as 'disgraceful' by Sumita Sinha, chair of Architects for Change.

Paul Hyett, in his first week as RIBA president, said he was 'extremely disturbed' by the findings.

He said potential students from the ethnic minorities, many of whom are educated in substandard inner city schools, suffered from 'unintentioned disadvantage' from architecture schools which insisted on high A level grades. And he said that practices ought to stop insisting on 'ridiculous' hours and offer decent employment contracts to encourage women to join the profession.

The survey of 2,000 people also showed the median pay for architects rose from £30,000 to £32,000 in the past year. But solicitors average £40,000 and GPs £54,000, according to the National Office for Statistics. The survey also revealed that London-based practitioners earn 13 per cent more than their peers in the provinces (see graph).

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