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AJ100: women now make up a third of architects at UK’s largest practices

The UK’s largest firms are becoming less male and pale, according to new findings revealed in this year’s AJ100 survey data

Women now make up a third of all  architects in the AJ100 – the fourth year in a row that the proportion of female architects has grown.

Meanwhile, the proportion of architects from a black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) background has increased slightly to just under 12 per cent.

The 106 AJ100 practices now employ 2,228 women architects in the UK (33 per cent of the overall total of 6,782) – up from 2,165 last year (32 per cent of the 6,853 total). In 2014 the proportion of female architects was 27 per cent.

The figures compare well with the ARB’s register of architects, which records that, of the 38,500 registered architects in Britain, only 26 per cent are women.

This suggests that women are significantly more likely to work for larger practices. Indeed, the AJ100 practices may employ almost a quarter of all UK-registered women architects, as well as about 17.5 per cent of all UK-registered male architects.

In total, 78 of the 106 practices have more women architects than the ARB average of 26 per cent. At the other end of the spectrum, there are six practices in which the share of women architects does not reach half the ARB average, and two in which it is only 8 per cent of the total.

Five practices actually employed more women than men architects. These were Michaelis Boyd, Comprehensive Design Architects (CDA), Darling Associates, Pattern Architects and Architype.

Pozzoni, meanwhile, has the same number of women and men architects. No practice reports an exclusively male workforce of architects.

Collectively, the AJ100 practices employ 785 architects in the UK, and 436 overseas, who recognise themselves as from a BAME background. This equates to just under 12 per cent of UK architects, up from 10 per cent last year

However, a few practices did not provide this information.

The ARB does not publish the portion of BAME architects in the UK, so it is more difficult to benchmark the AJ100’s performance on this. However, it is probably better than average – a few years ago only 6 per cent of architects in the UK were reported to be BAME.

Two practices report that more than half of their UK architects are BAME – HOK and rg+p – while BAME architects make up at least a quarter of architects in eight further  practices: Pattern Architects, HLM Architects, tp bennett, Capita ESA, Hawkins\Brown, Zaha Hadid Architects, Fairhursts Design Group and Perkins+Will.

At the other end of the spectrum, 11 practices report employing no BAME architects (in their UK studios) despite each employing at least 25 architects in total.

However there is almost no connection between the extent to which practices favour women and BAME architects. Fifteen practices, though, do pass two admittedly arbitrary benchmarks: at least a third of their UK architects are women, and at least one in eight of their UK architects are BAME.

These are: AHMM, bptw partnership, CPMG Architects, Darling Associates, Fairhursts Design Group, Formation Architects, Grimshaw, Hawkins\Brown, Orms, Pattern Architects, PLP Architecture, Pozzoni, rg-p, Tate Hindle and Zaha Hadid Architects.

AJ100 Analysis Graphs Diversity

AJ100 Analysis Graphs Diversity

Yet, one third of the AJ100 practices pass neither of these benchmarks.

Despite this modest improvement in diversity, it is important not to be complacent, says RIBA head of practice Lucy Carmichael. ‘The increase in the proportion of women working in larger, potentially more commercial practices means that something is shifting in the culture, which is positive,’ she says.

‘Maybe things are starting to change. But there’s a lot of work still to be done.’

Whereas the challenge with gender equality is retaining women architects within the profession, for race diversity, Carmichael says, the issue is ensuring that BAME students progress into the architectural profession in the first place.

‘The best of the larger practices have this on their radars and are putting in place measures to actively encourage talent by supporting architects in training through Part 1 and 2, which is where we see the drop off for BAME architectural students,’ she says.

The rise in BAME representation within the AJ100 practices was welcomed by Sonia Watson, chief executive of the Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust, which is launching a diversity charter later this year to help practices take a more systematic approach to diversity.

‘We want to work with the industry to create a more diverse environment in which everyone’s talent and creativity can flourish,’ she says, ‘and more information about the challenges and successes will help the sector as a whole to develop its practice.’ 

Readers' comments (1)

  • The problem is that these figures do not look at seniority. Women remain severely underrepresented at senior level, fuelled by the attrition rate of women architects mid-career and the unconscious bias that appears to be endemic across the profession.

    The Equilibrium Network has been set up to try and address these two issues, not just in architecture but across the built environment as a whole. To find out more, do visit our website https://equilibrium-network.com.

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