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Diversity champion Sonia Watson awarded OBE in Queen’s birthday honours

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Sonia Watson, chief executive of the Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust, has been handed an OBE for services to diversity in architecture

The Queen’s birthday honours list this year also included writer and editor of the RIBA Journal Hugh Pearman (MBE) for services to architecture and Lucy Musgrave (OBE), founding director of urban design practice Publica and recently appointed National Infrastructure Commission design champion.

This year the proportion of honours going to Black and Minority Ethnic (BAME) individuals was one of the highest ever, at 10.4 per cent of the total. 

However, Watson, speaking to The Telegraph, said that the increased recognition was making little difference to diversity within the profession.

She told the paper: ’It’s certainly encouraging that more BAME people are being recognised, compared to a decade ago, but statistically very little has changed.

’We’re still not getting young people who come from disadvantaged backgrounds, particularly those from ethnic minorities, into play. They are still not getting a seat at the table.’

Watson added that in the 26 years since the racially motivated murder of aspiring architect Stephen Lawrence in 1993 there were still very few opportunities for BAME youngsters to enter the architectural profession.

’Something has changed visually in terms of more ethnic minority people like me being recognised, and that is welcome, but the reality on the ground is very poor when it comes to people’s opportunities.  We have a lot of work to do.

’With the help of everybody in this country we’ll start to see the real change that Stephen wanted to inspire.’

Among the other recipients of honours were Laura Lee, the chief executive of Maggie’s cancer care centres who has hired a raft of big-name architects, such as Zaha Hadid and Norman Foster, to design facilities for the charity.

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Readers' comments (2)

  • Congratulations Sonia! You are amazing! Thank you for all the hard work you have done within our industry!

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  • Congratulations to both Sonia and Hugh!

    Sonia has been a force for good in the construction industry and beyond and deserves the recognition!

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