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Equity by Design: 2018 Key Findings

February 22, 2019

The 2018 Equity in Architecture Survey was designed in partnership with the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture and over 50 volunteers from around the country with the goal of generating a comprehensive national data set detailing current positions and career experiences of architecture school graduates. The resulting data set—the largest ever collected on equity within the profession—documents the experiences of 14,360 individuals representing all 50 states and nations on six continents. This unprecedented collection of professional voices is the testimony that allows us to build a deeper understanding of our strengths as a profession, and to gain insight into the critical work needed to provide each individual within our field with opportunities to thrive and to make a lasting impact within the communities that we serve. The survey analysis highlights the voices heard, the values held and the visions harnessed for the future of the profession.


Voices offers insight into personal and professional milestones that have the tendency to hinder career progression and influence decisions to leave the field. Our research indicated that the Masters of Architecture degree is becoming increasingly popular. Our respondents with master’s degrees tended to carry higher debt levels for longer after graduation than their counterparts with bachelor’s degrees. This was especially true for black men with master’s degrees, who still carried an average of $55k, or about 6 times as much debt on average as an Asian female w/ a bachelor’s degree, ten years after graduation.  


Values explores the personal and collective values that guide us in our careers, and the ways in which the narratives that we shape about our professional worth influence our professional experiences.  This year’s data indicates that there’s a gender-based pay gap in every project role. In fact a man working as a design principal makes roughly $20k more per year than the average female respondent working in the same position. We also observed a race-and gender-based pay gap at every level of experience within the profession, with the largest pay differences observed between white men and black women.

Vision enumerates the ingredients of a satisfying career in architecture by detailing the key components of our career perceptions, and the ways in which individuals and firms can positively influence workplace culture and project outcomes through the lens of equitable frameworks. On the topic of culture and relationships, our analysis comprises a variety of measures that assess an individual’s relationship to their peers and their firm’s management. We found that white male respondents tended to have more positive perceptions in each of these areas than women or respondents of color.

Over the coming year, Equity by Design and the ACSA will continue analysis of the dataset, focusing on each of the research topics identified in the preliminary analysis in greater depth. These findings will be published on Equity by Design’s website through a series of “deep dive” articles, with each focusing on a single survey topic. These findings will be compiled in a Final Report, which will be issued in 2019.

Research by Kendall A. Nicholson, EdD, Assoc. AIA, NOMA
Director of Research and Information

CLICK HERE for more information about the work of Equity by Design.

Equity by Design: Voices, Values, Vision!
by AIA San Francisco and the Equity by Design Committee
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