Architecture has a problem when it comes to representation. Of the approximately 122,000 architects in the United States and its territories, 24% are women, 4% identify as Hispanic or Latino, and 2% identify as Black, according to the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards. Just 0.4% of licensed professionals—532, at the time of publication—identify as Black women, according to the Directory of African American Architects.
For 50 years, the National Organization of Minority Architects has been an advocate and leader for the creation of just, equitable, diverse, and inclusive outcomes in the built environment. In 1971, 12 African American architects from across the country met, some for the first time, at the AIA National Convention in Detroit. These professionals recognized the dire need for an organization dedicated to the development and advancement of designers of color—and Black architects in particular. This meeting set the foundation and vision for what would become NOMA.
Today, at nearly 3,000 members strong and with 117 professional and student chapters, the nonprofit organization continues to champion diversity in design through education, professional development, advocacy, and activism. And more in the profession are joining in.
The American Institute of Architects has taken steps to advance equity both in the profession at large and internally, examining its own operations, policies, initiatives, and more. In 2009, AIA and NOMA signed their first Memorandum of Understanding to collaborate on efforts to increase the diversity of the profession. The MOU, which has been renewed several times since, remains in effect.
We have seen progress, starting with the design community’s widespread—though belated—acknowledgment of systemic racism and discrimination. But we can do more faster and better together.
An abridged version of this introduction opens the October 2021 issue of ARCHITECT. The number of architects and the number of Black female architects have been updated here.
The National Organization of Minority Architects
Jason Pugh, AIA, NOMA
Pascale Sablan, FAIA, NOMA
Kimberly Dowdell, AIA, NOMAC
Past President 2019–2020
R. Steven Lewis, FAIA, NOMAC
Past President 2009–2010
Tiffany Brown, Assoc. AIA, NOMA
Tiffany Mayhew, Assoc. AIA, NOMA
Amber LaCroix, NOMA Allied Professional