This year’s NCARB By the Numbers report from the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards offers the latest insights into gender representation and ethnic diversity in the field of architecture. It offers some optimism, as many key metrics are showing increases over previous findings within the report, which is now in its ninth year.

Increasing diversity in the field of architecture

The NCARB report focuses on those who have taken part in its Architectural Experience Program (AXP), a training program where candidates pursuing licensure in the architecture profession gain the required knowledge in their field. The program is required by most U.S. architectural registration boards to satisfy experience requirements.

Among the report’s findings:

  • Nearly two in five new architects are women.
  • Less than one in five new architects identify as a racial or ethnic minority, an improvement of 16 percent in the last ten years.
  • Forty-four percent of candidates starting the AXP are people of color, and 49 percent are women.
  • Women complete licensure requirements 1.3 years earlier than men.
  • People of color completing the AXP jumped three percent.
  • Decreases were seen the proportion of women starting the experience and examination programs, though the proportion of women who completed the AXP in 2019 increased two percentage points.
  • Gender representation in candidates finished the AXP has increased seven percent over the past decade.
  • The proportion of individuals completing the AXP who identify as non-white or Hispanic has reached a record high at 37 percent—4 percentage points higher than in 2018 and 16 higher than in 2010.

Just this month, AIA announced a first-of-its-kind pilot project. Called Next2Lead, the associations says the program will provide leadership and experiential education, mentoring and experiences for 16 AIA members who are emerging, ethnically diverse women in architecture with a minimum of five years in the profession. The program will include individual and group projects as well as conferences. The association currently has an active request for proposal out seeking a consultant who will provide curriculum design, development, instruction, facilitation, communications, assessment and evaluation.

There’s of course a long way to go. A 2016 AIA study by its Equity in Architecture Commission indicated that women architects earned 76 percent of their male peers in the same positions. Half of women responding to the survey reported feeling that their gender will hinder them from achieving their career goals.

Architect Magazine’s August article titled What Does Real Action Toward Achieving an Equitable Profession Look Like? asked 12 designers of color to share their thoughts on recent calls and vows to improve diversity within the industry.

“Improving diversity, equity, and inclusion has finally become ‘mainstream,’” said respondent Maya Bird-Murphy, Assoc. AIA, founder and executive director of Chicago Mobile Makers. “ I’ve seen statements of solidarity from many AEC companies, but these statements must be backed up by action steps. I won’t be convinced that real change is happening until firms have DEI [Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion] action steps written into their business plans and until they have employee-led committees that have the power to keep firm leadership accountable. AIA and other national organizations should be putting pressure on firms to create such action steps.”

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