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Deputy London mayor slams architecture’s complacency on diversity

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London’s deputy mayor, Jules Pipe, has criticised architecture’s lack of improvement on diversity, telling an AJ100 audience ‘progress isn’t inevitable’

Speaking at an AJ100 Breakfast Club event at St Pancras Hotel in King’s Cross on Friday morning (15 June), Pipe said those designing London should reflect the city’s diversity.

’Unfortunately this isn’t currently the case,’ he said, pointing out that only 37 per cent of architect jobs in London are held by women, a figure he said had decreased since 2011.

In addition, he said BAME architects continue to experience discrimination in the workplace and the profession is less diverse in terms of ethnicity than others. 

The deputy mayor for planning, regeneration and skills said a recent AJ article revealing that the number of BAME architects had dropped among the top practices was ‘really disappointing’.

He said: ’This under-representation undermines the built environment sector’s collective efforts to achieve good growth.’

’Progress isn’t inevitable and we should never sit back and say it is. Despite the best intentions of many people in the sector diversity and equality can’t be expected to happen on its own.’

Pipe, the former mayor of Hackney, said most architecture practices did not have strong equality and diversity policies in place and ‘even fewer’ gathered data.

Monitoring data on the gender pay gap and under-represented groups was a crucial first step in understanding the problem, he said.

Pipe urged architecture practices to consult City Hall’s new diversity handbook, launched last month, for advice on practical tools.

The diversity handbook is part of the GLA’s six-part Good Growth by Design programme, which includes building local authority planning capacity and improving design quality.

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Readers' comments (2)

  • Clare Richards

    As a mentor with SMF (Social Mobility Foundation) for five years, supporting female, mainly Muslim, sixth formers in their attempts to apply for architecture courses, I have identified a range of barriers that conspire against them from the very beginning. Until we address these we have no hope of addressing the profession's lack of diversity:
    - there is no effective continuity between Yr 11 and 12, when these girls mostly move from school to a 6th form college
    - they therefore receive no useful advice or encouragement to ensure they choose suitable A'Levels for Architecture
    - they come under parental pressure to study a shorter course, for fear of the debts they will incur and financial hardship
    - there are precious few role models to them to emulate
    - 'widening participation' is not seen as a priority by many architecture schools (with notable exceptions like UCL)
    - lack of a feasible work-based alternative; only one university currently offers an apprenticeship programme at Part 1 level
    None of these things is difficult to address if we make a profession-wide commitment to engage with schools, colleges and universities. But if we don't do that absolutely nothing will change. Jules Pipe is right. The top 100 practices must take the initiative and set an example.

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  • All of the points noted by Clare Richards was an issue when I applied to Architecture over 15 years ago, and it is very sad to hear that this is still the case.

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