Flickr user Kari via a Creative Commons license.
Flickr user Kari via a Creative Commons license.

Let’s face it: Architecture is not known for being a diverse profession, particularly among firm leadership. Several grassroots efforts have called attention to and, more importantly, launched initiatives to address the longstanding underrepresentation of women and minorities in the sector: In 2014, Equity by Design, an AIA San Francisco committee, conducted a landmark survey to better understand why the number of women pursuing a career in architecture drops dramatically between graduation and licensure. Australia-based Parlour and New York–based ArchiteXX promote gender equity in architecture through advocacy programs such as WikiD, an initiative to give more women in AEC professions their due on Wikipedia. And in Pittsburgh, the educational and career placement program UDream (Urban Design Regional Employment Action for Minorities) is helping attract and retain emerging minority designers in the city.

The effort to further equity in the profession has also been picked up by AIA. At the AIA annual meeting this past May, member delegates voted to pass “Resolution 15-1: Equity in Architecture,” which calls for “women and men to realize the goal of equitable practice in order to retain talent, advance the architecture profession, and communicate the value of design in society.” Yesterday, the AIA announced the completion of a critical first step that was set forth in the resolution: the establishment of a Commission on Equity in Architecture.

The group of 22 architects, educators, and diversity experts is charged with examining diversity and inclusion in architecture by using data gathered from the 2015 Diversity in the Profession of Architecture Survey (release forthcoming in January), published industry demographics, and other data from the Institute and other partner organizations. The commission will then develop recommendations for generating equitable practices in the industry; create measurable goals and mechanisms by which to track progress; and make recommendations toward a plan of action that they will then present to the AIA Board of Directors by the end of 2016.

“Equity is everyone’s issue and achieving equitable practice has a direct impact on the relevance, economic health and future of the Institute and our profession,” said AIA president Elizabeth Chu Richter, FAIA, in the press release.

According to the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards’ (NCARB’s) 2015 NCARB by the Numbers report, women accounted for 35 percent of the candidates who completed the Architect Registration Examination in 2014, up from 21 percent in 2004. Meanwhile, the percentage of aspiring architects who are racial and ethnic minorities (and who are registered in NCARB to begin the Intern Development Program) has doubled from 20 percent in 2004 to about 41 percent in 2014.

The commission will be chaired by Emily Grandstaff-Rice, AIA, an associate at Cambridge Seven Associates, in Massachusetts, and includes Richter as well as the following professionals:

  • William Bates, AIA, vice president of real estate for Eat’n Park Hospitality Group
  • Jorge Bermudez, president and CEO of the Byebrook Group
  • Jan Blackmon, FAIA, executive director of the AIA Dallas chapter
  • Gabrielle Bullock, FAIA, principal and director of global diversity at Perkins + Will
  • Marcia Jones Calloway, director of Diversity and Inclusion at the AIA
  • Candi Castleberry-Singleton, former chief inclusion officer at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center
  • Shirley Davis, principal at SDS Global Enterprises
  • Verity Frizzell, AIA, principal at Feltz & Frizzell Architects
  • Linsey Graff, AIA, designer and planner at Ayers Saint Gross
  • Damon Leverett, AIA, managing director of Diversity and Emerging Professionals Engagement at the AIA
  • Francis Pitts, FAIA, president and CEO at Architecture+
  • Jeffrey Ostrander, manager of diversity and inclusion at the AIA
  • Ikhlas Sabouni, Assoc. AIA, dean and distinguished professor at Prairie View A&M University
  • Tania Salgado, AIA, principal at Handprint Architecture
  • Kate Schwennsen, FAIA, director of the School of Architecture at Clemson University
  • Rosa Sheng, AIA, senior associate at Bohlin Cywinski Jackson and founding chair of Equity by Design, an AIA San Francisco committee
  • Steven Spurlock, FAIA, managing principal at WNUK Spurlock Architecture
  • Lowell Tacker, AIA, principal at LPA
  • Alexis Terry, director of Diversity and Inclusion at the American Society of Association Executives
  • Gordon White, neurological surgeon in private practice, in Austin, Texas

Note: This article has been updated since first publication to include links to the members' bios, and to update Gabrielle Bullock's credentials as FAIA.