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Almost 25% Ethnic Minority Architects Say Racism is ‘Widespread’ in UK

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Almost 25 per cent architects from the black and minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds, including Asians, in the United Kingdom said there is “widespread” racism in the profession, according to a survey of almost 900 UK-based architects, technologists and students. One third of the respondents identified as BAME background.

As many as 30 per cent of architects from Black, African or Caribbean background said that they faced racially motivated incidents at work. “A similar proportion of mixed-race respondents also said they had been victims of racism at work. The figure for Asian respondents was slightly less, at 20 per cent,” according to the Race Diversity Survey conducted by the Architects Journal (AJ) and the Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust (SLCT). Stephen Lawrence was an aspiring architect who was killed in 1993 at the age of 18 in a racially motivated attack.

Only 9.2 per cent of white respondents said racism is widespread in architecture in the country. However, all respondents said that racism is present at some level within the industry. The survey is said to be a first of its kind for the profession and is meant to expose adverse attitudes to people of color.

“These results are not entirely unexpected, but no less troubling for that. There is no place for racism, discrimination or unfair treatment in our profession,” Ben Derbyshire, the president of the Royal Institute of British Architects, which is a professional body of British architects, said in a statement.

The results of the survey echo the anecdotal evidence received by the trust, Sonia Watson, chief executive of the SLCT, told AJ, adding that the data will hopefully encourage the profession to act.

As many as 57 per cent white and 57 per cent BAME respondents said that there is some racism in architecture in the United Kingdom, while 29 per cent white respondents said there is very little, and 5 per cent said there is no racism. Among BAME respondents, 15 per cent said there is very little and 5 per cent said there is none, while 23.4 per cent said racism is widespread.

The survey also included anecdotal comments. One respondent said, “In a previous workplace, I was the victim of direct, open, verbal, sustained racial abuse to the point that I had to leave.”

About 70 per cent UK-based BAME respondents said that their race creates barriers for career growth. The percentage (81 per cent) is higher among Black, African or Caribbean respondents. At least 70 per cent Asian and 64 per cent of mixed-race respondents said that their identity presents barriers to career progression.

One of the solutions to the issues is inclusion of architectural history of India, Asia, and Africa (and not just the Western tradition) to “alter people’s perceptions,” the survey says.