An Investigation into Bias in the Architecture Profession


Image of report cover page with focus on subsection Bias Interrupters from inside booklet.

AIA partnered with the Center for WorkLife Law at the University of California Hastings College of the Law to conduct a study on workplace experiences in the architecture profession. The report is a qualitative and quantitative study of bias based on gender and race/ethnicity in the practice of architecture. The Center for WorkLife Law examined how bias plays out in the practice of architecture, how it affects workplace processes, and how it affects outcome measures.

This study reflects professionals' responses to the Workplace Experiences Survey, a ten-minute survey that examines basic patterns of bias, where bias is playing out, and its impact on outcomes. Quantitative data from the survey results was supplemented by qualitative data in the form of survey comments, one-on-one interviews, and focus groups.

What was the purpose of the study?

  • The purpose of this study was to move beyond anecdote, and to deepen, identify, and address issues of bias, sexism, and racism within firm culture. This includes the experiences, perceptions, and opinions of women, people of color, and other historically resilient, but heretofore underrepresented groups within the profession.
  • To build awareness and to help members recognize and identify bias, as well as address issues that may be occurring in their offices and in their profession.
  • To start a conversation in firms that disrupts bias. How? The report provides strategies—specifically Bias Interrupters - to help firms address bias in the workplace and to help make their practices more inclusive and welcoming.
  • To amplify the voices of people who experience a disproportionate share of negative, exclusionary, or biased behavior in the workplace.

Download the full report >

Tools for architecture firms

Architecture firms can improve their diversity metrics, foster a culture of belonging, and make progress toward eliminating bias by using the same tools that businesses use to solve any major problem: evidence, goals, and metrics.

Use Metrics: Firms use metrics to assess whether they have progressed towards any strategic goal. Metrics can help a firm pinpoint where bias exists, and assess the effectiveness of the measures taken to prevent or combat bias. (Whether metrics are made public will vary from firm to firm, and from metric to metric.)  

Implement Bias Interrupters: Bias interrupters are small adjustments to your existing business systems. They should not require a firm to entirely abandon current systems.

Repeat As Needed. After implementing bias interrupters, return to your metrics. If they have not improved, a firm will need to ratchet up to stronger bias interrupters.

Bias, if unchecked, affects many different groups: especially people who are underrepresented, women, people of color, LGBTQIA+ people, individuals with disabilities. This literature on bias has been distilled into simple steps that help architects and firms perform better.

Bias Interrupters apply to every firm, regardless of size, geographic location, or employee demographics. Here are six toolkits for architecture firms, with information for how to interrupt bias in the following business systems:

  • Interrupting Bias in Hiring
  • Interrupting Bias in Assignments
  • Interrupting Bias in Performance Evaluations
  • Interrupting Bias in Meetings
  • Interrupting Bias in Family Leave
  • Interrupting Bias in Workplace Flexibility

Access the Bias Interrupter tools >

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