7.22.2005

AIA diversity

the other day i sat for a 45 minute phone interview with a firm who is conducting a survey for the national AIA on the profound diversity issue within the profession. the woman conducting the interview was particularly stricken by the 1% of licensed african-american architects which has not changed in 30-40 years...also by the number of women in architecture school (usually 50/50) and the # of licensed women architects which also has a huge discrepancy. there were numerous questions but the final one was this: what are the major inhibitors/barriers to people of color (african-american in particular since she was focusing on my experiece and perspective) students/practioners in architecture and what can be done to resolve this issue.

my answer: major money and energy needs to be put into: early exposure to architecture in secondary and presecondary education to cultivate the interest and love of architecture, funding for students of color in the post secondary education process and MENTORSHIP like nobody's business.

a) exposure:

given the percentages of architects of color, you are less likely to come in contact with an architect of color as a young person of color. your uncle, grandmother, cousin is not likely to be an architect. schools don't neccessarily promote architecture as a profession to pursue. for most people the main professions youth know about are: doctor, lawyer...maybe engineer. then there's teachers, law enforcement etc. etc.


b) funding/support:

this is expensive! usually, if there are any, the grants, fellowships, scholarhips, assistantships are few and far between....let alone support in particular for the retention students of color. many students of color (and other students with financially challenging backgrounds) have to work and go to school. architecture isn't really something that can be done part time...and working and going to architecture school is brutal. i'm not saying some people can't make it work...i know many who do but its one more factor that makes it hard.


c) mentorship:

the architectural education process is long and arduous. if you don't have someone rooting for you and pushing you it can be easy to give up. how many faculty of color are there? are professionals reaching out to students? as professionals are seasoned professionals reaching back to the newer generation?

d) payoff:
the education, internship and licensure process in general is long as hell. and the resulting salaries are crazy LOW compared to the other "professions". for many people of color picking a career path usually is without the priveledge of "doing something you love"...conversely it is directly related to transcending financial struggle. those who don't have that financial struggle i think still are looking for a certain level of prestige that architecture doesn't offer.

what do you think? is my answer simplistic? is there more or less to it? thoughts? she said most people had similar answers.