The National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB) and the National Organization of Minority Architects (NOMA) released the Baseline on Belonging: Experience Report, an in-depth study exploring factors that impact equity, diversity, and inclusion for candidates gaining professional architecture experience.
The report reveals interplay between factors such as race, age, and firm size can have a significant impact on an individual’s ability to navigate the Architectural Experience Program (AXP), which is a key step to earning an architecture license in the United States. Over the coming months, NOMA and NCARB will continue to analyze the survey results and release reports on four additional key topic areas: examination, education, firm culture, and career development.
In 2019, just over 11 percent of architects in the country identified as a racial or ethnic minority, according to NCARB by the Numbers. While representation along most career stages has increased slowly over the past several years, candidates of color are still 31 percent more likely to stop pursuing licensure, NCARB said in a press release. Understanding the factors leading to this attrition is the focus of the Baseline on Belonging study, which is based on results from a joint survey conducted by NCARB and NOMA in early-2020. Early findings from the survey were released in summer 2020.
“We are strongly committed to finding effective ways to reduce the barriers to licensure for all minority architects, especially Black female architects, who remain the least represented population in the profession,” said NOMA president Jason Pugh, NOMA, AIA, AICP, LEED AP. “While the number of newly licensed Black architects has flatlined over the last couple of decades, we are pleased to see an increase in overall diversity for those starting the licensure process. With NCARB’s documentation and new understanding of the challenges candidates face on the path to licensure, the next steps forward must include a definitive action plan we can collectively harness to streamline the process going forward.”
To complete the AXP, candidates must earn 3740 hours across six practice areas and frequently rely on their employers to provide opportunities in the necessary areas. By exploring respondents’ experiences navigating the AXP, NCARB and NOMA hope to identify areas where the program, as well as firms and supervisors, may create unintended barriers.
With more than 5000 complete responses (including over 2800 from people of color and nearly 2500 from women), the survey highlighted several key findings for additional study and exploration:
- Overall, survey participants reported positive experiences completing the AXP, however, filtering the data by demographic factors (such as race/ethnicity, gender, and age) reveals disparities ranging from slight to significant;
- When responses are segmented by race/ethnicity the largest disparities are seen in the variety of experience opportunities provided and supervisor support;
- Age is the most significant factor impacting a candidate’s progression through the AXP, with nearly half of respondents over the age of 55 reporting challenges earning experience;
- Women of color, especially African-American women, frequently face greater barriers than white women or men of color;
- African-American women are consistently less likely to report having a positive supervisor relationship than respondents of other demographic groups;
- Firm size can have a variety of impacts on AXP support, with some positives and negatives seen for each firm size, however, African Americans working at large firms typically report less challenges than those working at small firms; and
- White candidates take slightly longer to complete the experience requirement than candidates of other races/ethnicities, but they are still younger when they start and complete the AXP.
These findings are a first step in identifying and addressing pinch points during the experience component of the licensure path, NCARB said. To better understand the underlying cause of the disparities highlighted in the report, NCARB and NOMA will conduct focus groups and follow-up surveys. Many aspects of earning professional experience are inseparable from individual firm culture, so necessary solutions to experience-related impediments may vary widely, NCARB said.