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Racism in the profession is getting worse, AJ survey indicates

Race Diversity Survey G Orange

Architects believe racism within the profession is becoming more widespread, not less, according to the early findings from a new AJ study

The research comes two years after the AJ carried out its first investigation into attitudes towards race within the industry, a survey which painted a picture of a profession struggling with unacknowledged racism where architects from Black and Minority Ethnic (BAME) backgrounds felt the colour of their skin hindered their careers (see Race Diversity Survey: is architecture in denial?)

More than 1,000 UK-based architects, technologists and students have now completed the AJ’s latest 2020 race diversity survey, launched in partnership with the Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust.

The new data shows architects and students are more worried than ever about race issues. In fact the percentage of those from a BAME background who think racism is ‘widespread’ in the architecture profession has increased significantly, up from 23 per cent in 2018 to 33 per cent in 2020.

This proportion is even higher among black, African and Caribbean respondents, with 43 per cent of this group saying racism was ‘widely prevalent’, compared with 30 per cent two years ago.

In contrast, only 17 per cent of white respondents think racism is widespread in architecture. However, that is also a marked rise from the 9 per cent in 2018.

How widespread racism data 2020

How widespread racism data 2020

One anonymous commentator from a BAME background said they had not seen any progress in addressing the issues. They said: ’There is an ignorance of there being an issue to begin with.

‘While writing the diversity policy for the office, I heard on a number of occasions “we don’t have a problem”, “we employ on merit” and other such defensive comments. 

’There seems to be very little in the way of incentive to make changes, of any kind, no matter how little.’

The latest survey reveals that more than a quarter (27 per cent) of BAME respondents said they had been victims of racism at their place of work. This proportion has gone up from 24 per cent in the earlier 2018 survey.

One BAME respondent said: ‘I have been harassed; I have been degraded; I have been shamed and treated horribly by a white man and a white women in their late 30s to early 40s.’

I have been the victim of racism data 2020

I have been the victim of racism data 2020

Further findings from the survey, including in-depth analysis of the barriers which remain for those from a BAME background in both entering into and progressing through the profession, will be revealed over the coming weeks.

AJ100 data released last week showed that the number of BAME architects employed by the UK’s largest practices had not increased and remained under-represented in the majority of firms.

Take the AJ diversity survey

The AJ, in partnership with the Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust, has launched a new survey to gather up-to-date evidence on race diversity within architecture.

The move comes two years after the AJ’s first investigation of the issues, the results of which painted a picture of a profession struggling with unacknowledged racism, whereby architects from Black and Minority Ethnic (BAME) backgrounds felt the colour of their skin hindered their careers.

Respondents to the 2018 questionnaire – the first of its kind in architecture – gave a unique insight into the ongoing challenges faced by many non-white architects (see Race Diversity Survey: is architecture in denial?)

Click here to take the 2020 survey


Readers' comments (2)

  • Industry Professional

    Speaking as an engineer from outside the architectural profession but from within the construction industry, it is disappointing that people perceive that racism is getting worse. I would have hoped that things were getting better, albeit not as quickly as some would hope. Perhaps the divisions regarding migration, etc. in the infamous Brexit debate have not helped.
    I wonder if some of those involved in the response to the survey either feel that things are not improving quickly enough or that they now feel more motivated to highlight the problem as an issue which can be resolved.
    I hope some useful, productive discussion will result, both here and elsewhere.
    Jeffrey - an engineer, comments made via the IHS

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  • Jeffery, how about the simple reason is that racism has sadly grown. It doesn't have to be because people of colour are more aware and want change, it is because racist are now empowered and feel able to voice their opinions and carry out their actions with relative impunity in the current climate.

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