Equity in Architecture: Metrics, Meaning & Matrices
Infographic Slides 2017
Gender of Survey Respondents
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.
Race/Ethnicity of Survey Respondents
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.
Sexuality of Survey Respondents
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.
Geography of Survey Respondents
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.
Years Experience in Architecture
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.
Current Career Track
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.
Metrics of Success
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.
Who Do You Ask for Professional Guidance?
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.
Career Perceptions: Received Guidance from Senior Leader
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.
Average Salary by Years 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.
Work-Life Challenges Faced
Not only did our female respondents make less money on average than their male counterparts, but they were more likely to report having faced a host of work-life conflicts, from poor health and neglected personal duties to turning down travel or even leaving a job. It’s also important to note that our respondents, both male and female, were much more likely to report facing personal setbacks in the face of work-life conflict than they were to report making professional trade-offs in these situations.
The last career dynamic, Beyond architecture, tracks individuals who are currently working in settings other than firms or sole proprietorships, as well as full-time caregivers and those who are unemployed. We also consider those who have spent time away from a firm or sole proprietorship in the past, whether to pursue another career opportunity, or to take a sabbatical or leave of absence.
Overall, 17% of our male respondents, and 18% of our female respondents, we currently working outside of an architecture setting, full-time caregivers, or unemployed. Most of these individuals were working in another setting, but still influenced the built environment in some way.
Education: More Focus Needed
The curriculum that both men and women say was most instrumental in preparing them were Design and Design Thinking, Construction Materials and Methods, and Building Systems. Meanwhile, respondents were most likely to say that Professional Practice/Business, Construction Materials and Methods, and Building Systems weren’t addressed fully enough to prepare them for a career in architecture. Women were more likely than men to report needing additional curricular focus on Construction Materials and Methods, and on Building Systems.
Office Tasks for <5 Years Experience
The survey demonstrates clear divisions in the office management tasks that male and female respondents take on within the first five years of their careers. Female respondents with less than 5 years experience more likely than their male counterparts to take on planning office events and managing the office library and less likely to take on more strategic tasks like firm project standards, strategic planning, or firm operations and management
Greatest Obstacles to Licensure
The survey demonstrated that licensure presents many professionals with challenges, with long work hours, the high cost of registration and exams, and low perceived rewards as the most frequently cited challenges. Female respondents were more likely than male respondents to experience every one of these challenges to licensure.
Likelihood of Being a Parent
The next major career pinchpoint – working caregivers – impacts many of our respondents. Amongst those currently practicing architecture, female respondents were less likely to have children than their male counterparts at every level of experience. This could suggest that female practitioners who have children are more likely than male practitioners with children to leave the field, resulting in a higher likelihood of being a practicing father than being a practicing mother. It could also suggest that women who pursue architecture are simply less likely than their male counterparts to become parents. Neither hypothesis can be confirmed by this survey, but this question is worth exploring in future research.
While female respondents were less likely than their male counterparts to be working parents, we found that those who were parents tended to bear more responsibility for childcare. Working mothers were approximately 10 times as likely as their male counterparts to be their children’s primary caregiver (48% of mothers vs. 5% of fathers). Meanwhile, 55% of fathers, and 10% of mothers, reported that their partner did more childcare.
Gender Balance Amongst Firm Leadership
The culmination of all of these pinch points is a glass ceiling that we’ve found persists in architecture. While 8% of our female respondents, and 5% of our male respondents reported working in a firm that was mostly, or completely led by women, the majority of our respondents – male and female—reported working in a firm that was mostly or completely led by men.
Likelihood of Being Principal by Years Experience
While some of this leadership imbalance may be attributable to the pipeline issues (i.e. more men than women entered the field in the past, resulting in more men positioned for leadership in the present), this isn’t the entire story. White male respondents were more likely than non-white men and both white women and women of color to be principals or partners at nearly every level of experience. Men of color were the least likely of any group to be principals or partners in a firm.