The number of BAME architects employed by the UK’s top 100 practices has dipped, according to new data collected by the AJ
The latest figures from the AJ100 reveal the proportion of black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) architects has dropped slightly from 12 per cent to 11 per cent.
The total number of reported BAME architects at the UK’s largest firms increased in 2017 and 2018 but this year the research shows the profession’s ethnic diversity has failed to improve. The numbers this year are down from 785 to 776.
Four practices failed to disclose their numbers of BAME architects in the UK while 11 reported employing no BAME architects.
The 11 per cent figure compares with about 20 per cent of the UK population as a whole.
While progress on increasing the profession’s ethnic diversity has gone backwards, the number of women employed by AJ100 practices has risen again.
The nation’s top 100 biggest practices continue to lead the way in the employment of women architects, with females accounting for 34 per cent of the architects employed by these firms (2,339 out of 6,972).
This is significantly higher than the 27 per cent of women within the total number of registered architects in the UK (9,814 out of 26,240). This proportion represents an increase of 7 per cent on the AJ100 figure from five years ago, although last year’s rise was just 1 per cent.
While the proportion of female architects employed in the UK by AJ100 companies is slightly lower among mid-sized practices, the proportion of BAME architects in the UK tends to increase with size of the practice.
According to Sonia Watson, the chief executive of the Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust who recently received an MBE for her efforts in increasing diversity within the profession, there are still barriers to entering the profession for those with a BAME background.
As a result, practices are struggling to attract a diverse pool of candidates.
‘Saying that if you work hard you can achieve anything plays a bit flat. You can’t play the game if you’re not invited into the game,’ she says.
The trust, which over the last 10 years has supported 132 young people of BAME backgrounds to become architects through funding, mentoring and work opportunities, is addressing this through initiatives such as an upcoming open-to-all recruitment portal as well as mentor and outreach programmes. It is also working with the RIBA, which will fund a member of staff to connect to opportunities available within its membership and build awareness of careers within the built environment from school age.
‘Statistically, it’s a challenge but there is hope,’ says Watson. ‘On Stephen Lawrence Day we distributed our marketing to 27,000 schools.’
The RIBA recently updated its Codes of Conduct and Practice to include strengthened requirements to promote equality, diversity and inclusion, and prevent discrimination, harassment and bias.
More analysis of the AJ100 data will be published in the forthcoming print edition.
The winner of this year’s AJ100 awards will be announced at the annual gala dinner event on 19 June at the Tower of London.