Atelier Cho Thompson courtesy AIA San Francisco Equity by Design Committee

The dust has not even settled on the AIA San Francisco Equity by Design (AIASF EQxD) committee's 2016 Equity in Architecture Survey results, but the tireless group is already onto its 2018 Equity in Architecture Survey, which launches on Feb. 12 and is open through March 16. This year’s survey could not come in a more timely manner: The #MeToo movement is demanding discourse, introspection, and—hopefully—accountability and change in workplaces worldwide. Meanwhile, the results from The Architects’ Journal latest Women in Architecture survey reveal sexual harassment remains firmly and disturbingly prevalent in the profession.

AIASF EQxD’s own landmark 2014 Equity in Architecture Survey (2,300 respondents—60 percent women, 40 percent men) helped shine a light on what were once black holes in the profession: job satisfaction, salary information, and reasons for leaving the field. The grassroots effort, which then emphasized gender parity in architecture, was open to responses from any interested party, and with that came a measure of self-selection bias.

The 2016 survey was more rigorous in its effort to get a respondent pool more representative of the profession (8,664 participants—50.7 percent women, 49.2 percent men). The EQxD committee enlisted the help of the AIA, the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture (ACSA), the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB), and the National Organization of Minority Architects (NOMA), among other industry organizations, to distribute the survey to verified architecture graduates. As a result, the committee could take a more confident look at correlations among career pinch points, talent recruitment and retention, workplace culture, salary, gender, ethnicity, and work experience.

To understand what differentiates this latest AIASF EQxD Equity in Architecture survey, ARCHITECT spoke with Annelise Pitts, AIA, research chair at AIASF EQxD and an architect at Bohlin Cywinski Jackson; and Kendall Nicholson, Assoc. AIA, the director of research and information at the ACSA.

Annelise Pitts
Chad Ziemendorf Annelise Pitts
Kendall Nicholson
Amanda Gann Kendall Nicholson

Give us an overview of the 2018 Equity in Architecture survey.
Pitts: The 2018 survey is constructed in the same spirit as the previous survey iterations in that we’ll be looking at career dynamics and career pinch points. There are a couple of big changes. This time, we made a much bigger outreach effort with the LGBTQ community and NOMA.

Nicholson: We are delving deeper into race and ethnicity. We were intentional about our line of questioning in topics such as inclusion, points where people enter the architecture pipeline, and their first encounter with architecture. These are some of the areas we didn't get to explore with the 2016 survey.

Pitts: We’re also asking questions about cultural competence: How do people handle cross-cultural interactions both within their offices and with their clients? From the last survey, we found that it was important that firms had policies in place to address employee satisfaction, retention, and work–life balance, but there wasn't clear direction on what the policies were. We will be delving into the realms of culture, relationships, and inclusion more deeply. Another new topic area is organizational justice: Do people think their organization is treating them fairly and what are the dimensions of that? We're also asking what issues make work meaningful and rewarding, what we're valuing in the profession as individuals and as firms, and if those values align with an expanded field or are rooted in the old story of the lone wolf, white male architect?

This year, over 100 people signed up to volunteer to be a part of either designing the survey, performing outreach, or participating in one of 10 focus groups to develop this survey. There's been a tremendous amount of energy from people just starting their careers to seasoned professions from all over the country.

Sources of professional guidance
Atelier Cho Thompson courtesy AIA San Francisco Equity by Design Committee Sources of professional guidance, based on responses from the 2016 Equity in Architecture survey

Has the #MeToo movement influenced this survey?
Pitts: It’s definitely had an impact on the way that I'm thinking about the survey, though I don't think it's had an impact on the questions that we're asking. Personally, I think that the unfortunate thing about the #MeToo movement is that we've been talking about isolated stories and isolated bad actors when the conversation we should be having is about deeper culture and assumptions. What we wanted to do in this survey is to make sure that architecture is a place that feels comfortable for everyone to work.

Describe the rigor of ensuring the survey’s integrity in terms of achieving a representative sample and preserving anonymity.
Nicholson: Broadening the body of people that we reach has probably the greatest effect. We have been intentional about reaching out to architectural graduates though large professional organizations. You won’t be able to find a survey link on social media, but you may receive the survey link through email through the AIA or through your school’s alumni outreach, so we know that we're getting verified architecture graduates.

Pitts: The only place where people will be asked to provide identifying information is at the end of the survey so you can be contacted for follow-up. But the information gets stripped [from the responses]; it is only seen by our professional research group and is never visible to anyone in the industry. We want to establish a balance between the rigor [of who is taking the survey] and the ability for respondents to be frank.

Average salary by firm size
Atelier Cho Thompson courtesy AIA San Francisco Equity by Design Committee Average salary by firm size, according to responses from the 2016 Equity in Architecture survey

How long will the survey take?
Pitts: It will be different for every person because the survey tracks are based on each individual’s circumstances [and responses]. The longest track of the survey will take a respondent 20 to 25 minutes, but for many people, it will be shorter than that.

The AIASF EQxD survey website has a contact link for firms interested in participating in the survey. What is the turnaround time after a firm reaches out?
Pitts: Between now and Sunday night (Feb. 11), we'll be sending the survey link to anyone who signs up, so that on Feb. 12 they'll have the link right at launch. After that, a request will be processed in approximately 48 hours. We do ask that people who sign up are in a position that is authorized to distribute the survey to all employees within the office, such as a principal, partner, or human resources personnel. As a thank you for participating, we will list those firms in our final report as distribution partners. We'll also send them some customized reporting that will give them a bit more targeted insight for firms that are a similar size to theirs.

You have been both involved with the past Equity in Architecture surveys and in presenting its results nationwide. What do you find exciting about this project?
Nicholson: This is ACSA's second [time] working as the research partner, and one of the greatest things about this project is that we are helping and assisting people’s voices to be heard. It doesn’t matter what part of the demographic you belong to. You have a voice and it should be heard and respected. It’s also exciting to see the dialogue that the survey has engendered and to see its results incorporated into professional practice courses, at ACSA's annual meetings, and at administrators conferences. It’s great that students [have this insight] at the beginning at their professional career rather than having to figure it all later on their own.

Pitts: What I find rewarding about this survey is the way it is surfacing all the voices in the profession and reshaping the story about what it means to have a career in architecture. And through that, we've been encouraging the industry to look inside itself to question what it values and to perhaps reshape the way that we practice.

Note: This conversation has been edited and condensed for clarity. This article has been updated since first publication.