Overall, 8,664 respondents participated in the survey, making this the largest dataset ever conducted on the topic of equity in architecture in the U.S. Of our 8,664 survey responses, roughly 50% identified as female, and 50% identified as male. We also had a small number of respondents (<1%) with non-binary genders. The non-binary gender sample was too small to allow us to conduct statistically valid analysis on this group on the basis of gender. We hope to over-sample this population in the future in order to be able to conduct more meaningful analysis on this group’s experiences. By comparing this to data from the AIA Firms Survey Report, we can see that the 2016 Equity in Architecture Survey over-samples women, who make up only 31% of architectural staff in AIA member-owned firms.
While we had a relatively even gender representation in our respondent pool, there was little racial or ethnic diversity, with 78% of respondents describing themselves as “white or caucasian.” According to the 2016 AIA Firm Survey Report, approximately 21% of the architectural staff working in AIA member-owned firms are people of color, suggesting the the 2016 Equity in Architecture Survey sample is fairly representative of the racial and ethnic diversity of AIA member-owned architectural firms. While the sample was representative as a percentage of the field, this also meant that it was quite small compared to the sample of the white population. This sample size, coupled with high degrees of response variability within this population, made drawing statistically valid conclusions on the basis of individual racial or ethnic group impossible for most questions due to insufficient sample size. In future rounds of study, we hope to gather more responses from people of color in order to be able to better understand equity issues as they relate to individual racial and ethnic groups.
The survey population also had little diversity in terms of sexual orientation, with 86% of male respondents, and 92% of female respondents, identifying as straight, or heterosexual. The datasets that we typically use to understand the demographics of the profession -- including those from NAAB, NCARB, and the AIA -- don’t include statistics on the sexual orientations of architectural practitioners, so we can’t make any conclusions about how our sample compares to the architectural community on this issue.
Our respondents’ geographic location was also fairly representative of the distribution of architectural professionals in the country, with heavy concentrations of respondents in states like California, New York, and Illinois. Overall, we received survey responses from all 50 states, as well as from foreign countries on six continents.
There was an interesting pattern in the experience level of our respondents. While the majority of our less experienced respondents were female, the majority of our respondents with more than 14 years of experience were male. In some ways, this is representative of what’s been called the “pipeline problem” in architecture. For instance, men were much more likely than women to have graduated from architecture programs 25 years ago, and so it makes sense that there are many more men than women with 25 years of experience today. For practical purposes, though, this means that it’s very hard to simply compare men to women in our results without also introducing confounding age and experience-level-related distinctions. That’s part of why you’ll see that we often analyze variables like salary by both gender and years of experience.
Because our study sampled architecture school graduates, not all respondents were currently working in architecture firms. The majority - 84% of all respondents - were currently practicing architecture, either within a firm or as a sole practitioner. There weren’t significant differences in respondents’ likelihood of practicing architecture on the basis of either race or gender. There were, however, differences in work setting amongst those who practiced architecture. For those practicing architecture, a firm was the most common work setting. This was especially true for women of color, who were only half as likely (4%) as either white men (8%) or men of color (8%) to work as a sole practitioner. In addition to those who were currently working in a firm or as a sole practitioner, we had a significant number of respondents who weren’t working in one of these settings, and may have been working in a related field or in another industry, providing full-time care for a family member, studying, unemployed, or retired. We have used the label "beyond architecture" throughout our analysis to identify this diverse population.
On average, male respondents’ career perceptions were more positive than those of their female counterparts. When asked about the relative positivity or negativity of their career perceptions across 14 categories from “work –life flexibility” to “promotion process ”to their likelihood of staying at their job for the next year,” male respondents’ average perceptions were more positive than female respondents’ in every category. The largest gender gaps indicated significant differences between men’s and women’s likelihood of feeling energized by their work (male respondents 7% more likely), likelihood of “having a seat at the table”, or being included in one’s firm’s decision-making process (male respondents 6% more likely), and likelihood of planning to stay in one’s current job for the next year (male respondents 6% more likely).
There were also areas of work-life that tended to be viewed more positively or negatively by all respondents: average perceptions of autonomy, satisfaction, and confidence tended to be most positive for respondents, while respondents’ average perceptions of their firms’ promotion processes, their work-life flexibility, and their workloads were least positive, on average. Male respondents perceptions were more positive, on average, than female respondents’ perceptions in each of these categories. We did not observe significant differences in career perceptions on the basis of race or ethnicity.
Mentorship and sponsorship -- and especially having access to career advice from a senior leader in one’s own firm -- emerged as important predictors of career success in the 2016 Equity in Architecture Survey. We found that male respondents were more likely than female respondents to report turning to someone senior within their own office for career guidance.. Meanwhile, female respondents were more likely than their male counterparts to turn to senior leaders outside of their offices, family & friends, and their peers for guidance. They were also more likely to consider gender as a factor when describing their mentors.
Male respondents’ increased likelihood of turning to senior leaders is especially significant because, compared to those who received no career guidance, those who turned to a senior leader within their firm were more more optimistic about their professional futures, more energized by their work, more likely to plan to stay at their current job. These correlations were stronger for female than for male respondents, suggesting that female respondents have more to gain by finding a senior mentor from their own firm.
White male respondents made more annually, on average, than white women or people of color. While white men made $96,514, on average, non-white women earned $69,550 on average. It’s important to note, however, that a large part of this difference in annual earnings can be attributed to discrepancies in the average experience level of demographic groups within the survey sample – while the average white male respondent had 18.5 years of experience, the average non-white female averaged 9.0 years, for instance.
While the difference in respondents’ average levels of experience accounts for some of the wage gap, significant differences in pay were observed between white male and other respondents even after controlling for years of experience. At every level of experience, male respondents made more, on average, than female respondents, with the largest differences amongst those with the most experience in the field.
There were also differences in annual earnings on the basis of race, with Black or African American practitioners with 14 or more years of experience earning less, on average, than White, Asian, Hispanic, or multiracial respondents. There were not significant differences in average annual earnings when comparing white and non-white respondents more generally.
This wage gap is important because earnings played a significant role in the way that respondents evaluated their professional success. “Earnings” were the most commonly cited component of career success, with 42% of females, and 44% of males, stating that they used earnings to define success in their careers.
Earnings were also tied to decisions about whether respondents stayed at a firm. Amongst those still practicing architecture, “low pay” was the third most commonly cited reason for having left one’s previous employer, after “better opportunity elsewhere” and “lack of opportunities for advancement.” Female respondents were more likely than male respondents to report leaving a position due to low pay.
Amongst those who had left architecture for careers in other fields, earnings were an even more important factor, with “low pay” as the second most commonly cited reason for leaving. The most common reason was “better opportunity elsewhere”. Again, female respondents were more likely than male respondents to report leaving a position in architecture due to low pay.
Even though women in the “beyond architecture” population were more likely to leave a position in architecture due to low pay, those who left an architectural firm for a career in another field made less on average than female full-time architectural practitioners within their graduation cohort. Men in the “beyond architecture” population, on the other hand, made more than full-time practitioners at most points in their careers. Simply put, the gender-based wage gap is larger for those who have been trained as architects, but no longer work in an architectural firm, than it is for those working in firms or as sole practitioners.
Part of this large gap in the “beyond architecture” population may be due to the different industries that men and women enter after leaving an architecture firm. While men were more likely to enter high paying fields like construction and real estate development, women were more likely to take positions in education, and the public sector.
The most common occupation for both men and women in the “beyond architecture” population was architectural education. Within this field, there was a significant, but narrower, par gap, with male architectural educators out-earning women at every level of experience.
The next career dynamic, pay equity, documents the wage gap between our male and female respondents. At every level of experience, our male respondents made more, on average, than our female respondents, with the highest differences at the top of the experience spectrum.
One of the most important ways of looking at the wage gap is to assess whether respondents are receiving equal pay for equal work. Our data showed a gender-based wage gap for every project role, with the largest gap between male and female design principals.
Several characteristics of one’s job were strongly correlated with either elevated or depressed annual earnings. After adjusting earnings to account for differences in average levels in experience across populations, we found that the strongest predictors of in-sector differences in earnings were related to work setting, and to professional title. Principals and partners made approximately $34,000 more annually than non-licensed designers with comparable experience levels, while titled leaders other than principals or partners made approximately $11,000 more, and licensed architects made approximately $6,000 more. These factors contribute to the wage gap in architecture because female respondents at every level of experience were less likely to hold titled leadership positions within their firms.
Meanwhile, those working in the smallest firms and offices made less money, on average, than those working within larger organizations. Again, because female respondents were more likely than male respondents to work in firms with 20 or fewer employees, the reduced earnings amongst those who worked in these settings contributed to the overall pay gap.
The single best predictor of earnings was the number of years of experience that one had in the profession, with each year of experience worth approximately $2700 in earnings. There was, however, a great deal of variation in average earnings amongst those with equivalent experience, with the highest degree of variability amongst those with the most experience. The infographic above shows the median salary for each experience level, as well as a shaded area representing the middle 80% of earners in each experience group. This demonstrates that, while there is a large degree of overlap between men’s and women’s salaries, the highest male earners in most experience categories had higher wages than the highest female earners. Conversely, the lowest female earners with more than 10 years of experience made less than the lowest male earners with comparable levels of experience.
The Equity in Architecture Survey indicated that post-secondary degrees have become more common amongst architectural graduates in recent years. This movement towards higher levels of education wasn’t, however, correlated with higher earnings. At every experience level, we found that earnings were comparable for those with and without graduate degrees, meaning that men with Bachelor’s degrees earned more, on average, than women with Master’s degrees.