This October, as we recognise Black History Month’s theme, ‘Time for Change: Action not Words’, we hear from Gideon Seglah, Architect based in our London studio, on how small changes within the industry could have great effects on the inclusion, performance, and wellbeing of architects.
“There isn’t a quick fix, but to make a big change, we must start with small steps. We all need to be brave enough to critically analyse ourselves and identify how we can action change.”
World events have brought about increased attention to diversity, inclusion, racism, and social injustice, noticeably within the architectural profession and the larger built environment (BE). Stats provided by ARB show there is still a lack in Black representation within architecture, with a recent survey showing that a huge 82% of those surveyed within the industry were of white ethnicity, 7% of Asian/Asian British, and only 1% Black/Black British. Furthermore, in an article published for the Architects Journal in 2020 by Richard Waite, the AJ’s race diversity survey was subject of analysis. Reporting on architects from Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds, the survey found that 40% of responses ‘strongly agreed’ with the phrase “I am discouraged by the lack of BAME employees in the architecture profession”, while 30% selected ‘agree’. That’s 70% of surveyed people of BAME origins who may struggle to find a role model with whom they relate closely – and that’s only people who have already entered the profession, not considering those who may never pursue the ambition at all.
We must wonder, as Waite’s article asks, what is the profession going to do about it?
There isn’t a quick fix, but to make a big change, we must start with small steps. We all need to be brave enough to critically analyse ourselves and identify how we can action change. Steps within individual practices can help to support people of BAME backgrounds both enter the profession and thrive within it, while larger organisations can support higher level changes. If we can recognise our previous failures, we can then start to rectify these and adjust our future goals. This year’s Black History Month Theme, ‘Time for Change: Action Not Words’ encompasses exactly this.
I am fortunate to be one of the co-founders of our HLM DIB Group (Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging). We formed this to grow our conversation within the practice for those at all levels; voicing our experiences and life lessons of what we have faced whilst seeking to excel within our careers. In sharing our individual experiences, we not only celebrate the rich diversity of our origins, but also identify how we can improve future experiences for younger people.
“We are working alongside organisations and collectives such as Beyond the Box and See it Be it Sheffield, with upcoming partnerships with the Mayors for London Fund, Mentivity, and many more, to inspire the young and improve our industry’s diversity and inclusivity.”
Since inception, our group has grown, and with the help of our Board sponsor we have had the opportunity to voice change and get involved with a vast number of outreach programs. We have also had the opportunity to build on our outreach initiatives, with the recent success of our portfolio workshop evening at our London studio. This incentive allows young students and out-of-work individuals the opportunity to share their work with us, and in turn a group of experienced professionals can share thoughts and experience on how to better their chances within the industry. Waite’s article comments on the lack of early years encouragement; “many respondents [of the 2020 race diversity survey] said architecture was still not put forward as a genuine career option at primary or secondary school”. The introduction of the architectural apprenticeship now provides an alternative more accessible route into our profession, and in conjunction with our Social Mobility group, we aim to open ambitions and opportunities for young people, with our own members as mentors and inspirations.
We are working alongside organisations and collectives such as Beyond the Box and See it Be it Sheffield, with upcoming partnerships with the Mayors Fund for London, Mentivity, and many more, to inspire the young and improve our industry’s diversity and inclusivity. We have a growing list of ideas we will be rolling out in the coming months; working closer with community, expanding out our portfolio workshop evenings, sponsoring and working with universities including end-of-year shows, and opening our doors to more summer interns.
We realise that we cannot change the make-up of the profession overnight, but that the accumulation of these small steps – especially when replicated by good work across other practices – will make a notable difference.
 Figures correct as of 22nd August 2022 Equality & Diversity Data – Architects Registration Board (arb.org.uk)
 Architecture is systemically racist. So what is the profession going to do about it? (architectsjournal.co.uk)