The current president of the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), Jane Duncan, has written optimistically about the business benefits in ensuring a diversity of talents within architecture.
Beyond this general appeal, and despite an undisputed history as an elite, ‘gentlemanly’ profession, there has been relatively little specific recent activity to promote social mobility within architecture. Instead, a diversity agenda has been dominated by issues of gender discrimination and a lack of women within the profession, particularly in more senior positions.
Survey data suggests access to UK architectural schools remains highly skewed by social background and that architects come from more privileged backgrounds than other professionals who work in construction industries. As yet, however, and in contrast with our other case studies, there is no conclusive evidence that a class pay gap exists in architecture.
Our case study focuses on a successful London based architectural firm. The practice of around 100 employees is relatively large for architecture. It employs many architects educated outside the UK and many at the beginning of their careers. An attempted census of staff measures socio-economic background, other aspects of diversity, educational attainment and current position within the practice. Additionally, in-depth interviews with around 35 architects at different stages of their career, carried out May-June 2017, explore class awareness, perceptions and experiences of whether and how socio-economic background may structure career ambitions and progression.
The results from this case study will be included in our book – The Class Ceiling – to be published in 2018.