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Towards a diverse profession

Ben Derbyshire

This is about more than creating diverse practices; the RIBA is working on all fronts to transform our profession

We must do more to diversify our profession – to deliver a more creative process and better outcomes for our clients.  I know this from personal experience – my practice was winner of AJ’s Employer of the Year, commended for our understanding that when people from all backgrounds participate it creates a rewarding environment in which to work.

Transforming the profession is much more difficult than diversifying the workforce of a single practice (even one like mine, founded 50 years ago by an all-male partnership).  We need to develop behaviours which are inclusive, not exclusive, adopt policies which create equal opportunities out of circumstances which are not and, most importantly in my view, work consciously to banish unconscious bias, which is perhaps the most pernicious obstacle to achieving diversity.

Our work at RIBA in this area is guided by our expert advisory group on equality and diversity, ‘Architects for Change’, chaired by Femi Oresanya. Alongside this group my successor, Alan Jones, worked with RIBA trustee Yemi Aladerun to put together recommendations on social inclusion drawing on the Social Mobility Commission report, ‘State of the Nation’. Together, these contributions have been combined into an overarching policy which has been approved by Council and shapes our work.


Transforming the profession is much more difficult than diversifying the workforce of a single practice

Starting with a clear understanding of the data on equality, diversity and inclusion, the programme will concentrate on enhancing existing policies and developing new ones targeting the pinch points that constrain progress.  We will be working in partnership with other expert organisations, including the Stephen Lawrence Trust, with whom the RIBA has a long-standing close relationship.  Our CEO Alan Valance – like me, a Stephen Lawrence ambassador – is on the Creative Industries Council with whom we are collaborating to increase diversity across the whole creative sector.

We have strengthened our policies to ensure RIBA chartered practices provide non-discriminatory, inclusive and flexible working environments – upheld by the RIBA’s newly updated Code of Practice. We have a popular nationwide mentoring programme, mental wellbeing resources in ­collaboration with the Architects Benevolent Society (now chaired by my predecessor Jane Duncan who has an OBE for services to diversity) and initiatives in place to reduce the gender pay gap –  I encourage practices not required to do so by the legislation to access this useful guidance and publish their own pay gap figures and apply the RIBA’s useful gender pay gap guidance.

In terms of education, our outreach work has connected 17,000 young people from across the UK with over 340 architects, ­inspiring them to take an interest in architecture. Parents as well as children involved in this growing programme will increase the pool of understanding about the career opportunities among diverse communities.  We have instigated an apprenticeship qualification for both parts 1 and 2 and anticipate that the growth of this and other earn-as-you-learn schemes will improve access to the profession from social groups who previously may have felt deterred. Alongside all of that, our group of vice presidents for student and associate members, Abi Patel, Selasi Setufe and Simeon Shtebunaev, have founded the Future Architects Network, which I am sure will be a stimulus for change for many years to come.

The RIBA is committed to driving change in our profession, working with you to ensure it reflects the society we serve.

The Migration Advisory Committee – who advise the UK Government on immigration policy – have recommended that Architects are included on the Shortage Occupation List (SOL). Employers that are looking to employ international workers for occupations listed on the SOL no longer have to apply the Resident Labour Market Test, among other benefits