Equity in Design

AIA gives $1 million to boost diversity in architecture—but there’s a problem

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AIA gives $1 million to boost diversity—but there's a problem. (Courtesy Sjhebe / Wikimedia Commons)
AIA gives $1 million to boost diversity—but there's a problem. (Courtesy Sjhebe / Wikimedia Commons)

After fielding a blizzard of negative reactions to Robert Ivy’s tone-deaf promiseand double apology—to work with President-elect Donald Trump, the AIA is trying to beef up its commitment to diversity and inclusion in the profession.

Last week the AIA board of directors announced it will put $1 million towards its Diversity Advancement Scholarship, a fund that aims to improve diversity, inclusion, and equity for people entering the field. The money augments the $1 million the board put towards the AIA Foundation–administered fund in 2013. Unbelievably, the scholarship’s description page says, now and today, that it’s intended to help architects and planners—specifically black architects and planners—be better equipped to practice in the “inner city,” a place where most black people don’t even live.

To complement the scholarship, the board adopted recommendations of the Equity in Architecture Commission, led by Emily Grandstaff-Rice, senior associate at Boston-based Arrowstreet. In its work, the group identified reasons why marginalized groups, particularly women and people of color, are not adequately represented in the field. The report, which should come out in the first quarter of 2017, includes actionable recommendations to boost diversity and inclusion.

“We are years away from true equity within the profession, but the path forward is beginning to take shape,” said Grandstaff-Rice, in a statement. “A seismic shift in architecture is underway, but it will take vigilance and continuous assessment to make equity in design a reality.”

These are the three publicly available takeaways from the forthcoming report:

  • Expose children and families to architecture through K–12 Programs, with elements that help underrepresented groups to discover architecture.

  • Develop self-assessment tools to collect data on diversity and inclusion issues in the biannual AIA Firm Survey, and use results to establish best practices.

  • Create and publish best practice guidelines for architectural practices, covering such themes as career progression, work culture, pay equity, and talent recruitment.

Readers, what do you think of these initiatives? Is the AIA’s commitment to diversity and inclusion genuine, or is it a close-the-barn-door PR response to #NotMyAIA? Let us know in the comments.

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