Washington, DC—The National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB) and the National Organization of Minority Architects (NOMA) have released initial findings from a joint engagement survey on equity, diversity, and inclusion in architecture. Conducted in February 2020, the survey primarily focused on identifying impediments along the path to earning an architecture license that may disproportionately impact people of color.

According to NCARB’s annual data publication, NCARB by the Numbers, people of color are 31 percent more likely to stop pursuing licensure over the course of a decade than their white peers. Through the new joint study, which is titled Baseline on Belonging: Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion in Architecture Licensing, NCARB and NOMA hope to better understand the causes of this disparity and begin to propose solutions.

Responses to the study indicate that there is often slight, but widespread, disparity throughout the licensure process and in firm culture. The data suggests that while all people of color—especially women of color—are impacted by these disparities in some ways, responses from African Americans indicate challenges at nearly every stage of the licensure process. In addition, responses also suggest older candidates face challenges completing NCARB’s Architectural Experience Program® (AXP®), and point to ways the Architect Registration Examination® (ARE®) may pose a more significant obstacle for women than for men.

"The Equity in Architecture Licensing Survey is a step in the right direction toward creating more awareness around the challenges facing our emerging professionals," said NOMA President Kimberly Dowdell, AIA, NCARB, NOMA. "The disparities illustrated by the survey results will help NOMA, NCARB, and other industry partners to design a more equitable path to licensure in support of our most vulnerable candidates, while still maintaining vital professional standards."

The study marks the first joint initiative conducted by the two organizations since NCARB became a NOMA partner in 2019. The survey was distributed to over 70,000 professionals and received over 5,000 complete responses from licensure candidates, recently licensed architects, and individuals who stopped pursuing licensure. Over 2,800 of the responses were from people of color, and nearly 2,500 were from women.

The engagement survey was designed to take a comprehensive look at perspectives regarding the licensure process and early career experience, based on a respondent’s licensure status. Respondents were asked to share their reasoning for wanting to be an architect; their experiences while earning a degree, working in a firm, and preparing for the ARE; and their perspective on their firm’s culture, diversity, and support for candidates completing the path to licensure. An overview of initial findings was released as part of NCARB by the Numbers, as well as independently.

“Through our partnership with NOMA, we hope to foster greater diversity in the architecture profession and ensure that the regulation of the profession is not disproportionately impacting any one group of people over another,” said NCARB President Robert M. Calvani, FAIA, NCARB. “We have seen from our own data that there are some significant differences in the proportion of people who stop pursuing a license. We look forward to working with NOMA to further explore and address pinch points along the path to licensure.”

Key data points from the initial survey indicate:

  • African Americans are slightly less likely to report that finding a firm willing to support them through the AXP was easy.
  • Asian and Latina women are less likely to agree they receive the variety of experience opportunities needed to complete the AXP.
  • The reported ease of finding an AXP-supportive firm decreases with age.
  • Latinos are the least likely to say they are confident they can afford the ARE.
  • Latino and African American candidates are more likely to work in a firm that doesn’t provide them with financial support toward the cost of the ARE.
  • Women are twice as likely as men to stop pursuing licensure after taking an ARE division.
  • Two-thirds of African Americans cannot identify people similar to themselves in firm leadership.
  • Forty percent of African Americans report facing or witnessing discrimination in the workplace.

Over the coming months, NOMA and NCARB will continue to analyze the survey results and release in-depth reports on five key topic areas: education, experience, examination, firm culture, and career development.

These reports will identify further areas of study, and frame the next steps the two organizations will take to better understand and address challenges to entering the profession. The organizations expect to share follow-up surveys and conduct focus groups to gather more detailed information regarding specific impediments.

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The National Council of Architectural Registration Boards’ membership is made up of the architectural licensing boards of the 50 states, the District of Columbia, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. NCARB, in collaboration with these boards, facilitates the licensure and credentialing of architects to protect the health, safety, and welfare of the public.

To achieve these goals, NCARB works with its Member Boards and volunteers to develop and facilitate standards for licensure, including the national examination and experience program. NCARB also recommends regulatory guidelines for licensing boards and helps architects expand their professional reach through the NCARB Certificate.

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About NOMA

NOMA, which thrives only when voluntary members contribute their time and resources, strives to build a strong national organization, strong chapters and strong members for the purpose of minimizing the effect of racism in our profession. NOMA’s mission, rooted in a rich legacy of activism, is to empower our local chapters and membership to foster justice and equity in communities of color through outreach, community advocacy, professional development and design excellence.

Connect with NOMA on  Twitter Facebook, and  Vimeo.