Findings from the RIBA and Fees Bureau’s 2012 Employment and Earnings Survey have been released, showing that the ethnicity of architects is increasingly predominately white.
These are disappointing employment figures from the architectural profession. That 94 per cent of the UK’s architects are white indicates that the issue of diversity is not firmly on the profession’s radar.
We know that the STEM industries traditionally struggle to attract and retain Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) candidates, yet significant effort has been put in over recent years to address this – with some headway being made. However, these RIBA statistics show that despite recognising that the architecture profession as a whole does not reflect the diversity of the nation’s population the architecture industry is failing to engage with diverse candidates.
A challenge for the STEM industry is often the low conversion rates of BAME graduates into employment. It would be interesting to know the number of BAME undergraduates studying architecture and related subjects to clearly understand if and where conversion rates are falling short.
It is widely accepted that diversity can lead to more creative thinking, and innovation is certainly something that drives the architectural profession forward. Yet ensuring fair progression and balanced representation of ethnic minorities in a given workforce from a standing start can be challenging. There are some approaches architecture firms can immediately undertake:
- Monitor every stage of the undergraduate to recruitment process to see where BAME candidates are dropping out
- Widen the net of universities and networks traditionally used to recruit graduates from – this will break the ‘like-for-like’ recruitment cycle and increase the feeder talent pool
- Improve direct engagement with diverse architecture undergraduates to identify top talent early on
- Clearly advertise and promote yourself as a diverse employer – ask recruiters to present a diverse shortlist
- The architecture profession should also consider more active engagement with schools to demonstrate to young BAME students the breadth of careers available to them in architecture, and that it is a profession that welcomes ethnic minorities.
Further guidance on increasing diversity in the recruitment process is available from the Race for Opportunity Recruitment Industry Engagement research.