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Is The Architectural Industry Racist?

Ed Maunder racism, Racism in Architecture, Equality...

It’s quite a blunt question and something many may feel uncomfortable asking.  However I've been recruiting into the architectural sector now for a little over 4 months now and after meeting with a number of clients I’ve been surprised by the lack of ethnic diversity in many of the practices I have visited so far.

Now I would like to point out that in no way at all am I insinuating that any of the practices I have visited are run by Nazi's or consciously racist but, it got me thinking.  Why are ethnic minorities so underrepresented in the industry?

I have worked in recruitment for around 4 and half years now the majority of that time was spent recruiting into the automotive engineering sector.  In this sector I found there was a much wider range of ethnic diversity in every manufacturing plant I visited. That’s not to say that the automotive industry didn’t have its own issues, particularly with sexism.  There is a serious lack of women top be found in automotive manufacturing facilities. I felt this was due to the years gone by in which engineering roles were seen as a 'man’s' job.

From a recruitment perspective I often found if I was working with a female candidate, she was much easier to place into a role than a male candidate of the same calibre, Possibly this was due to companies want to 'check a box' and work toward a more diverse workforce, Some would say they were so obsessed with not being sexist that they would positively discriminate against male candidates to work towards balancing the workforce.  Talk about fighting fire with fire!

Coming back to the architectural industry, I haven't been working within the industry long enough to know if these same rules would apply with ethnic minorities in architecture so decided to see if there was any information around racial diversity within the industry.  I found an article in the Architects Journal and was shocked to learn that UK Architects are 94% white, this article was from 2012 so admittedly is a little bit out of date so I decided to continue my search, I came across an article by Oliver Wainwright in The Guardian in 2015 citing the same figures however the article suggested a deep undercurrent of racism within the industry.

Another more recent article from the Architects Journal in May of this year explores racism in the industry and carried out surveys among ethnic minorities and white members of the industry.  They found that 57% of both groups felt there is “some” racism in the industry. And although 76% of minorities felt that they hadn't directly been a victim of racism in the workplace this means that 24% felt they had been a victim of racism. Frankly, this is an unacceptable figure. It’s worth noting also that 65% said they do not see any ethnic minority colleagues in senior positions which once again is extremely high.

As a supplier into the architectural industry rather than working directly in it, I would be interested to hear your thoughts on the subject.

Do you feel there is institutionalised racism within the architectural industry? Have you experienced it first hand?

Are ethnic minorities blocked from entering the industry?

Are ethnic minorities less likely to progress within the industry into senior positions?

How do we tackle the lack of diversity in the industry?

I am really interested to hear your feedback on the subject so if you would like to share your feelings or answers to the above questions please email me at ed@aspirantcareers.com and if I receive enough responses I will follow this up with a second article with your thoughts (no responses will published without your consent and can be published anonymously)