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New stats show architects are mostly white, male and well-to-do

2016 09 07 Creative ethnicity

Government statistics on diversity in the creative industries show women and ethnic minorities continue to be underrepresented in architecture

A new report into employment within the creative industries shows that there are nearly twice as many men as women employed in architecture and only one in 10 of all employees are of Black, Asian or minority ethnic backgrounds.

The data, published by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), also reveals that 97.5 per cent of employees in the architecture sector were from ‘more advantaged backgrounds’.

This year’s AJ100 survey showed that the number of female architects is at its highest ever but the DCMS’s research shows that women are still not as well represented in architecture as they are in most other creative industries.

2016 09 07 Creative gender new

2016 09 07 Creative gender new

According to the figures, women account for an overall 37.2 per cent of jobs in the creative industries, but only make up just over a third (34.3 per cent) of those in architecture. This statistic was lower than all other creative groups researched except for the IT, software and computer services sector (21.4 per cent).

Julia Feix, director at Feix and Merlin, said: ‘It’s not surprising. Part of it is probably because it’s not necessarily the easiest to profession to have children in, for example. Coming back on a part-time basis is very difficult and most offices wouldn’t let you do that.

She added: ‘I don’t think the problem is one of bringing architecture closer to women, because there is an interest. It’s about making it more accessible for professional women who also want to have a family.’

The report also shows that Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) employees are also underrepresented in architecture. BAME employees account for just 5.9 per cent of jobs in architecture – a little over half the proportion employed across all the creative industries (11.4 per cent).

Manisha Patel, a partner at PRP Architects, said: ‘When I’m around the industry I don’t come across many [ethnic minority employees]. There are more working in the housing association field but when we’re working for higher-end private developers [there are] very few women or anyone from ethnic minority backgrounds.

‘PRP does go into schools, especially in the East End with its Bengali community, to encourage people to understand that they can have access to a career in architecture, which isn’t a traditional kind of thing within a lot of ethnic minority cultures. It does come down partly to culture and perceptions of what architecture is.’

She added: ‘It’s still quite an élite profession and it’s a very small world in which to break through at any kind of higher level.’

The DCMS survey shows that architecture also favours people from better-off socio-economic backgrounds. 

Architecture has the highest proportion of jobs (74.7 per cent) at degree level or above in the creative economy and just 2.5 per cent of workers in architecture are from ‘less advantaged’ socio-economic backgrounds. This proportion is lower than all other creative industries except the IT, software and computer services sector, where it is equalled.

2016 09 07 creative socio economic

2016 09 07 creative socio economic

Patel said: ‘There are fewer people in architecture from less privileged backgrounds, I would say I would count as one of those. I think a lot of that is about affordability. It’s a very long degree course for people to fund, especially with the fees universities charge nowadays. It’s making it easier for people who have backing from their parents to be able to do courses like these.

In general, the DCMS figures correlate with last month’s AJ100 analysis,  but the AJ also found that, at the 100 largest firms in the UK, 11 per cent of employees were of Black, Asian or minority ethnic backgrounds.


Readers' comments (5)

  • Chris Roche

    These are disturbing statistics in the 21st century, which need to be addressed. Reducing the typical course length from 5 to 4 years full time education will help, together with an additional year of paid professional practice. As will doing more to retain women who have had a career break to bring up children. The under representation of women is all the more shocking as we now have our third female RIBA president in 10 years. More needs to be done and yet we have a choice of 3 male candidates for this year's RIBA Presidential Election. How do the candidates propose to address these important issues?

    Chris Roche Founder 11.04

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  • @Chris - it is clear that women suffer more in full time practice for a variety of reasons. New models are needed - such as the one we have been developing for our client Lisa Raynes:

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  • J Burden

    Maybe more needs to be done to highlight the benefits of Architecture as a career for women. If you can go it alone, it can be a well paid, rewarding and flexible career and if you stay in contact with ex-colleagues you can build a network of women architects who are mothers (There are quite a few of us - even if not all stuck with the 'Architect' title) who went on to work as sole practitioners. I'm part of such a mini network and we help each other out.
    I am not sure that part timers like us who tend to do small domestic projects are fully on the on the radar of RIBA. I say that because the CPD subjects and awards are aimed at bigger and grander organisations. (We are never going to see a 'selecting a garage door' or 'domestic plumbing' on the CPD list although this is exactly the sort of CPD we would actually use!).
    I believe that if RIBA reached out more to sole practitioners more they would in turn be doing a huge service to women architects many who have chosen this route as it gives the flexibility around raising a family.

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  • Ben Derbyshire

    Chris Roche asks how we three candidates would respond to this crucial issue if elected. The election rules forbid participation in such discussions during the voting period that runs from 5 July to 8 August. But we are allowed to encourage the electorate to visit our campaign websites, read our election statements and vote. You'll certainly find a variety of responses to Chris Roche's question if you do. The website addresses are:
    Ben Derbyshire Chair, HTA Design LLP

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  • @above..don't forget whiteness and well-to-do-ness are also major problems. I'd love to be able to have the option of being a sole practitioner (part of full-time), in fact I'd love to be in the position of being able to afford the RIBA subscription, but not being white or well to do, i found out the hard way that this life is not for me (despite being a registered 'Architect'). Following this welcome and overdue report, I'm sure it won't long now before the AJ BAME in architecture campaign begins and we get a full BAME in architecture issue..

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