As the 2019 President of The American Institute of Architects, I have had the honor to learn from and listen to colleagues from across the nation and around the world. Those interactions have reinforced what I always knew: Our similarities, as people and as professionals, far outweigh our differences.
We don’t all speak the same language, come from the same family background, or share the same cultural heritage, but we do share a commitment to advancing our communities and our societies through the power of design.
Today, architects are finding ways, both small and large, to improve the profession’s environmental stewardship of the built world. In the years ahead, we must commit to leaning into this effort. I am proud of the clear direction of the board, Strategic Council, and members to seize the leadership moment presented by climate change, and I look forward to sharing the first steps in AIA’s years-long effort to lead on this issue.
However, leadership in the 21st century takes more than noble ideals and a clear vision. Today it requires the inclusion, innovation, ingenuity, and leadership of everyone.
As a profession, we are becoming more diverse, but it’s taking place slowly—especially in comparison to the society we serve.
For example, 46 percent of students enrolled in schools of architecture are women, up from 25 percent in 1985. In 2016, women accounted for 36 percent of newly licensed architects. That’s substantial progress, but we have a considerable way to go. After all, women make up 51 percent of the total population and 56 percent of all college students.
On the issue of race, progress has been harder to achieve, especially concerning African Americans and Hispanics. Currently, about 13 percent of college students identify as African American and a little more than 18 percent identify as Hispanic. In contrast, African Americans account for roughly 5 percent of architecture students.
Further along the career pipeline, roughly 19 percent of new architects identify as nonwhite. These statistics stand in sharp distinction to prevailing national demographic trends. For example, 39 percent of millennials self-identify with a race or ethnicity other than white, about double the share of the baby boomer generation at the same age. And according to census data, 48 percent of Gen Z (post-millennials) identify as nonwhite.
To help facilitate and advance the critical conversations needed to expand the pipeline of women and minorities into architecture and to retain them throughout their careers, AIA’s Guides for Equitable Practice, created in partnership with the University of Minnesota and AIA’s Equity and Future of Architecture Committee, continue to facilitate necessary discussions about fostering a more inclusive profession.
I am convinced that as we expand the definition of who is an architect, we will extend what architecture can accomplish. As firms and schools conduct critical conversations to better understand and eliminate the barriers and biases that challenge underrepresented groups in the profession, we will dramatically improve, impress, and ultimately inspire the society we serve through diverse design thinking.
To lead, we must be more diverse—as diverse as the population we serve. All of us have a critical role in ensuring that the talent and perspective of everyone, without regard to race, age, socio-economic background, or gender, is included in our effort to create a more equitable, compassionate, and environmentally responsible built world— and, by extension, society.