Architects Embracing Diversity

December 5, 2008 · by DesignIntelligence

By 2042, the U.S. Census Bureau predicts that 50 percent of the population will be minorities. The architecture profession is not even close to racial or gender parity. The diversity of our profession and in our businesses must mirror our environment.

- Meg Brown

According to the United States Census, in 2000, there were 192,860 architects in the United States. Of that number, 20.3 percent were female, 2.7 percent were black, 5.6 percent were Hispanic, 6.3 percent were Asian, and .3 percent were American Indian. The 2005 AIA Demographic Diversity Audit Report additionally revealed several important issues, including the under-representation of women and minorities within the profession and barriers to diversity in the architecture educational experience.

This past spring, the AIA brought together individuals of all ages, races, and gender from the design profession, business, academia, and associations to identify best practices to improve diversity within the architecture educational system and design practice. Keynote speakers included 2009 AIA First Vice President George Miller and former AIA President Marshall Purnell, who provided a riveting and compassionate call to action.

During the two-day “multiFORMity 08 architects.embracing.diversity” meeting, moving stories were shared about past and present challenges experienced by women, minorities, working mothers, gay and aging workers, and even our younger generation, who boldly stated that for them, diversity was less about gender and race and more about how quickly they were going to advance to principal.

Collaborative brainstorming and best practices discussions led to the Gateway Commitment, a vision statement illustrating a commitment to significantly improving the representation and management of diversity in architecture education and practice.

Following the meeting, Robert Ivy, editor of Architectural Record and a workshop participant, aptly noted in his May editorial, “Room for All Our Talents,” the importance of evolving our profession and our workplaces racially, ethnically and generationally. He challenged firms to take action within their own firms.

The ACE Mentor Program, the National Organization of Minority Architects, Arquitectos ( an organization of Latino architects), IAIS, International Archive of Women in Architecture are excellent organizations for firms to join and support. Company-sponsored minority scholarships, participation in diversity career fairs, minority school recruitment programs, diversity training, ensuring your firm’s practices are inclusive, mentorship, and career path development are a few of the many avenues available in championing diversity.

The diversity of our profession and in our businesses must mirror our environment. Today, about one in three U.S. residents is a minority. By 2042, the U.S. Census Bureau predicts that 50 percent of the population will be minorities. Changing demographics, globalization, and diversity will continue to have a huge influence on our clients and in our workplaces. Embracing diversity, valuing and leveraging our differences, will make us stronger, richer and better.

Meg Brown is a principal at Perkins+Will.

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