The RIBA is to redouble its efforts to boost women and under-represented groups in the profession following the AJ’s ground breaking women in architecture survey
At a meeting of the institute’s council in Newcastle last month, RIBA councillors unanimously backed a motion to step up action against discrimination in architectural workplaces.
The renewed efforts came a month after the AJ revealed nearly two-thirds of women in a survey suffered sexual discrimination in their career.
Tabled by council member Yasmin Shariff, the six-point plan called on the institute to consult the ARB, General Medical Council and Law Society on ways to boost opportunities for women in the profession.
The motion also demanded a status update on the number of women architects to be read at council meetings going forward.
Shariff said: ‘There is a big drop off of women after qualifying. You spend seven years in training which is quite tough [and the idea it] doesn’t equip you to organise child care is a rubbish excuse. The reason women leave architecture is because they get paid less and treated differently.’
‘I want a kick box attitude, not tick box. Now is the time to give women the support they need.’
The motion was passed with a single amendment by RIBA diversity champion and institute stalwart Jane Duncan who successfully proposed expanding the policy to include all under-represented groups.
Duncan said: ‘The reason the motion was put forward was the Women in Architecture survey by AJ. It was very well received by everyone.
Duncan – who became the institute’s diversity champion in February after six years at Portland Place – said her main priority in the role was to ‘reinvigorate’ all areas of the RIBA to ensure diversity was championed at all levels.
She said: ‘RIBA has got to take that leadership role and you can’t take that leadership role until you are sure you are doing that right yourself.’
Duncan also said she was looking to investigate ‘best practice’ in diversity within the profession with a view to developing potential policies or assistance for architectural companies seeking to improve.
‘Role models have to be good employers,’ said Duncan, adding flexibility and open mindedness at the top of a practice is key to creating environments which welcome diversity.
Diversity isn’t charity, it is good for business
She added: ‘Diversity isn’t charity, it is good for business. Architects should be the leaders [in the construction industry]. Diversity begins at home. We are the creative home of the business so this should be the home.’
Asked how success would be measured, Duncan dismissed the need for targets: ‘We have got to get progress. Targets may not mean anything but it is the direction of travel which is important. What we are looking for is continuous progress.’
The Newcastle RIBA council meeting was chaired by president elect Stephen Hodder because president Angela Brady was unwell and unable to make the fixture.
Brady told the AJ she ‘absolutely’ supported the motion: ‘We’ve been battling away or diversity for twelve years. It’s got to be something every practice has got to take responsibility for. There’s no excuse for unfair treatment.’