After 164 years of existence, the RIBA will next week decide whether it wants to introduce the first equal opportunities policy to cover the whole profession.
The policy already has the support of president Marco Goldschmied and other prominent RIBA council members and is being viewed as a major breakthrough by Architects for Change (AFC), a group which campaigns against discrimination based on such grounds as race and gender.
'There has been nothing the Institute could do if someone was sacked for being black, for example, even though that architect could go to the Commission for Racial Equality, ' said AFC chairwoman Sumita Sinha.
If voted through, the policy will apply to all of the RIBA's member practices and will give it powers to discipline architects who contravene its principles. Latest figures show that only two per cent of the profession is drawn from ethnic minorities and only 12 per cent are women.
The policy states: 'The RIBA values the creative potential which individuals from diverse backgrounds and with differing skills and abilities bring to the institute and the architectural profession.We will endeavour to foster an environment that is free from harassment or unfair discrimination, where human potential can be cultivated and in which the human rights of all individuals are respected.'
AFC has planned a string of events on the issue including the Listen Up scheme, which will see 80 teenage schoolgirls descend on the RIBA for a day of workshops where they will design different parts of a street. The girls were due to design different rooms in a house but Sinha intervened. She said: 'Let's get away from that. It's like Changing Rooms. Girls can be town planners too.'