24% of Black, Asian, and Ethnic Minority (BAME) professionals working in architecture have experienced racial abuse in the workplace, according to a survey published in The Architect’s Journal.
The survey, which is the first looking at race issues in the industry, was supported by the Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust. Stephen Lawrence was an aspiring architect before he was murdered in a racially-aggravated attack in London 25 years ago.
Of the 877 UK-based architecture professionals who responded to the survey, 95% said that there was racism in the profession, with many respondents sharing specific anecdotes of serious, and sustained, racial abuse in the workplace.
More than one-third of the survey’s respondents identified as BAME. Of those from an Asian background, 20% had been victims of racism in the workplace themselves, a figure which rises to almost one-in-three among those from black, African, Caribbean or mixed-race heritage.
Perhaps even more alarmingly, the survey also showed that relatively few white, British professionals in the industry were aware of any problems in their workplaces. Only one in five UK-based, white respondents said that they were aware of racist language being used in the workplace, whereas almost half of BAME professionals surveyed said they had heard racially motivated insults towards themselves or colleagues.
23% of UK-based BAME professionals said that they feel that ‘racism is widespread’ within the industry, with 20% also saying that they didn’t think their line manager would be able to deal with any issues they raise. Fewer than one in every 10 white British architects are aware that there is a problem.
It is telling, perhaps, that the proportion of BAME people working in architecture is less than half of that in the general population, at just 6%.
There is a saying that the first step to solving a problem is admitting that it exists. Never has this been truer than when it comes to racism. This survey shows that there is a problem with racism in the architecture industry, and an issue which must be addressed. There is little, if any, support available for BAME architects, and warm words and promises are no longer enough.
Too many in the profession are in denial. It would appear that there needs to be change.