Survey: Early Findings

The Missing 32% Project: Equity in Architecture Survey sample is neither longitudinal nor a representative cross-section of the profession. The analyses presented here are far from exhaustive. The survey data will contain further insights into the factors that have gender-specific impacts on careers in architecture.  The dataset is rich in information about respondents’ views about firm policies and practices, their personal and professional goals, and their individual circumstances.  The open-ended questions, while the most difficult to analyze in a systematic manner, are likely to yield interesting findings.

Survey: Early Findings

Equity in Architecture Survey 2014 

The following is a summary of early findings from the Equity in Architecture Survey. We are working on a more comprehensive report that will be based on what was presented at the Equity by Design Symposium on October 18, 2014 in the months to come. While this is a broad overview "road map" of the analysis, there is much left to interpretation and further analysis. Nevertheless, we foresee this body of work as a means to start the conversation about Equity in Architecture. There will inevitably be more questions than answers as you begin to understand the findings and we encourage you to share this information with your colleagues, firms, alumni networks, and AIA Chapters. 

The research portion of the Missing 32% Project was envisioned as an endeavor with multiple stages, starting locally with the Bay Area, then expanding to the national scale with the ultimate goal of informing the global conversation on the issue of Equity in Architecture. Phase 1 of the project, a 90+ question survey conducted via Survey Monkey in February thru March 2014, explores the workplace participation and career aspirations of 2,289 participants with architectural degrees and experience in architectural practice within the United States. While the primary survey respondents consisted of those working in traditional firms, it was also beneficial to expand the questions to sole practitioners and those who have left professional practice to pursue alternate career paths. With this in consideration, the project aims to understand the current career status and potential hurdles or "pinch points" of design professionals employed at every level of practice. Additionally, the Findings will explore what the architectural firms are doing in terms of professional advancement, licensure support, and workplace culture to attract and retain the best talent. A few key questions arise: "What are the key factors that hinder advancement and create pinch points? Why do so few women advance to ownership and senior leadership positions in large firms? And what measures could be taken to promote Equity in Architecture as it relates to hiring, retention, professional growth, leadership, meaning and influence?"

Research Statement

The Missing 32% Project: Equity in Architecture Survey sample is neither longitudinal nor a representative cross-section of the profession. The analyses presented here are far from exhaustive. The survey data will contain further insights into the factors that have gender-specific impacts on careers in architecture.  The dataset is rich in information about respondents’ views about firm policies and practices, their personal and professional goals, and their individual circumstances.  The open-ended questions, while the most difficult to analyze in a systematic manner, are likely to yield interesting findings.

Although the survey was targeted at 1,000 architecture professionals working in the San Francisco Bay area, the survey link was disseminated widely and randomly enough that, in the end, only 44 percent of respondents are Californians, with the remainder of the respondents coming from 46 other states, and a handful from other countries.

Although the survey was targeted at 1,000 architecture professionals working in the San Francisco Bay area, the survey link was disseminated widely and randomly enough that, in the end, only 44 percent of respondents are Californians, with the remainder of the respondents coming from 46 other states, and a handful from other countries.

Demographics of Respondents

A total of 2,289 respondents participated in the survey, although not all of them chose to complete it.  Respondents who completed the survey spent an average of about 30 minutes taking it, men and women alike.  The sample consists of 788 men and 1,501 women, with an average age of 40.  The respondents have an average of 14 years of experience, and have been with their current employer for an average of 7 years.  The large majority of respondents—85 percent—are still practicing architecture, 11 percent are employed in another industry, and 4 percent are unemployed.  Slightly more than half of the respondents are licensed, 364 (22 percent) of them are principals or partners, and 308 hold other senior positions.  Only 55 respondents are sole practitioners.  The sample is almost evenly split between respondents whose highest degree is a Bachelor’s degree and those with a Master’s degree; a mere 15 respondents hold PhDs.

A third of the respondents are childless, and 39 percent are their household’s primary earner.  Among the two-thirds of respondents who supplied salary information, the average salary is $79,000, the 10th percentile salary about $40,000, and the 90th percentile salary about $140,000. Two percent of respondents earn $250,000 or more.   Firm size varies widely.  Ten percent of respondents work in a firm of 3 to 10 people, a fifth work in 2-person firms, a fifth in firms of 11 to 25 people, a fifth in firms of 26 to 50 people, and nearly a fifth in firms of over 100. Forty-five percent of men and 58 percent of women indicated that they are willing to be contacted for follow-up questioning. 

HIRING AND RETENTION

While nearly half of today’s graduates from architecture programs are women, they make up only 20% of practitioners and 17% of partners or principals in architecture firms (AIA 2014 Firm Survey Report). In the Hiring & Retention Knowledge area, we will examine early findings on the initial employment and retention of architectural professionals as it relates to gender equity.  We will highlight “pinch points” around major career and life milestones at which women are more likely to leave a firm. 

The Life of an Architect Infographic visualizes the concept of these pinch points under the following categories: Hiring, Paying your Dues, Licensure, Caregiving, and the Glass Ceiling.  Overall, satisfaction resulted in 41% of male respondents and 28% of female respondents indicating that they were “satisfied with their current jobs and not looking for new opportunities”.  The key factors influencing job satisfaction are:  being a Principal in your firm, employees who believe their firms have an effective promotion process and those who believe their day to day work aligns with career goals. In terms of relevance comparing day-to-day work towards long-term goals,  44% of men, and 40% of women, found their work relevant to their goals. In reference to work-life flexibility, regardless of whether respondents were parents or not, 54% of women, and 48% of men have indicated leaving a position due to work/life related challenges. 

GROWTH AND DEVELOPMENT

In the Growth and Development Knowledge area, early findings provide insight on how women and men view the key challenges and issues for licensure, professional development and advancement. There is a need to cultivate innovation and leadership, provide meaningful and engaging project assignments,  provide equal professional development opportunities, and foster transparency in performance reviews, promotion and compensation practices. 

In terms of salary, the average respondent earns $79,000.  On average, women earn less than men with the gap increasing among respondents starting around year 10-15. In the regression models, factors for a higher salary include being a Principal or holding a leadership position, working in a larger firm, and licensure.  In terms of positions of firm leadership and principals among the respondents, the gender gap between women who are in firm leadership positions compared to Principals/Partners is significant at year 10-15 as well. On average when asked about career aspirations, there is a gender gap for becoming a Principal and starting one’s own firm. Respondents who did not indicate a hope one day to become a principal, partner, or a sole practitioner are also less likely to be licensed than their counterparts. The second predictor of licensure status is whether a respondent was aware if career advancement opportunities were restricted to licensed employees.  The greatest obstacles for those seeking licensure were: long hours, lack of incentives, high cost of exams and caregiver obligations.

MEANING AND INFLUENCE

In the Meaning and Influence Knowledge area, early survey findings focus on the topics of "Why people leave architecture?" , challenges for caregivers and late career glass ceiling group, as well as the stigma involved with taking a leave of absence. When asking respondents  “How do you define success in your career?” the infographic below provides a compelling look at the topic of what constitutes a successful career. Our survey findings compares how different groups answered the question. Those working in traditional firms, sole practitioners, and architectural graduates in divergent career paths represent the 3 groups.  Out of 16 possible answers asked, the prevailing factors among the three groups; work/life flexibility, working on projects of personal and professional significance and working with a positive, talented, collaborative team.

In taking a closer look at “Why do people leave architecture?” respondents cited low pay, long hours, the lack of promotion opportunities and role models in addition to unprofessional behavior/bullying as the top factors. In questioning those who have left architecture for another career, the most respondents have left within the first 3 years of practice. Another pinch point occurs with caregiving roles. Female respondents were somewhat more likely to have passed up professional opportunities as a result of work/life flexibility considerations or for other commitments.  In terms of taking a leave of absence, there was a large gap between respondents with significantly less men than women taking a leave. Of those who have taken a leave,  women consistently reported higher impacts than men who took a leave of absence including: delay of advancement, reduced rate of compensation, less desirable project opportunities, limited project roles and perceived lack of commitment to career.

Acknowledgements

We would like to thank all of you that have helped to make the Equity in Architecture Survey a reality. 

  • Sponsorship Partners (click link for full list)
  • TM32PP Research Team: Rosa Sheng, Annelise Pitts, Lilian Asperin-Clyman, Saskia Dennis-van Dijl, Helen Wong
  • Mills College Research Team: Eirik Evenhouse, Ruohnan Hu, Jesseca Reddell. 
  • Social Media Partners in Equity
  • AIASF Staff and Committees
  • Bay Area Young Architects
  • Survey Participants
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