Diversity in interior design: BIID reveal study findings

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    730 565 Hamish Kilburn
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    Diversity in interior design: BIID reveal study findings

    The British Institute of Interior Design (BIID) has revealed the results of the first research study into diversity in interior design – change is needed from eduction upwards…

    Image of 'design' on mobile phone

    The British Institute of Interior Design (BIID) has announced the findings of the first diversity in interior design research, carried out to gain a detailed picture of the current landscape of the UK’s interior design sector and to provide a foundation to achieving a more diverse and inclusive profession in the future.

    The research project covered:

    • An analysis of the diversity of interior design BA and MA students at UK educational institutions.
    • An analysis of the diversity of the post‐graduate employment patterns of interior designers.
    • A diversity in interior design survey aimed at currently practising interior designers to gain insights into diversity in the workplace and wider profession.

    Key findings – diversity in interior design survey, aimed at currently practising interior designers

    This research was launched with the intention of understanding the diversity of working interior designers. By completing this survey, the interior designers questioned helped to contribute to a detailed picture of the current profession which will also become a benchmark so progress can be tracked, and trends can be identified over periods of time.

    While 69 per cent of those who completed the survey were white, of those who stated their current position is head of a studio or a senior level position, 78 per cent are white, 10 per cent Asian and six per cent are black – highlighting a lack of ethnic minorities in senior positions.

    When asked whether race/ethnicity has created barriers to their progression in interior design, 22 per cent agreed. Of this proportion that agreed, 76 per cent identified as black, Asian or mixed – indicating that those with ethnic minority backgrounds feel that their race is a barrier to career progression. 15 per cent stated that they are the only black, Asian and/or Minority Ethnic employee in their organisation.

    What’s more, just under 40 per cent (37 per cent) say they have been the victim of some form of discrimination in their profession and/or place of work.

    For those who state they have been discriminated in their profession or place of work because of race/ethnicity, the breakdown of their race/ethnicity is as follows 42 per cent black, 25 per cent Asian, 11 per cent mixed.

    Key findings – interior design students

    The analysis examined interior design students at UK higher education institutions.

    Interior design students were more likely than the average student to be from an ethnic minority background. 29 per cent of interior design students were from an ethnic minority background, compared to the 23 per cent of all UK students. In addition, interior design students were more likely to be from an ethnic minority background than architecture/planning students (22 per cent) and creative arts and design students (14 per cent).

    Across the sector there was an ‘attainment gap’ for ethnicity. Ethnic minorities students were less likely to get a first than white students. The ethnicity attainment gap was larger on interior design courses than on other courses: 13 per cent of ethnic minority students attained a first compared to 28 per cent of white students.

    The cohort of interior design students analysed was more ethnically diverse and featured a higher proportion of individuals from less privileged socio‐economic backgrounds than the general student population for the same time period.

    Key findings – employment outcomes after graduation

    18 months after graduation: 74 per cent of graduates were employed or about to start work. However, unemployment was higher than for the UK average (six per cent of interior design (ID) graduates compared to four per cent of other graduates).

    Of those who were employed, 74 per cent of ID graduates were in high‐skilled occupations including interior design. 18 per cent were in low‐skilled jobs; this is twice the UK rate of nine per cent for graduates.

    In regards to gender, females were more likely to go into interior design, whereas males went into other professions. Females were also more likely to be in a low‐skilled occupation when surveyed.

    Ethnic minorities were more likely to be in a low‐skilled occupation when surveyed. It should be noted that this is higher than across UK graduates with degrees not in interior design. This suggests there may be particular challenges for ethnic minorities who have interior design degrees. Ethnic minority ID graduates were less likely to work in high‐skilled occupations as a whole (63 per cent, compared to 74 per cent of white graduates).

    Conversely, ethnic minority ID graduates were more likely to go into intermediate and low skilled occupations. A quarter (25 per cent) of this group were in a low‐skilled occupation 18 months after graduation (compared to 19 per cent of white graduates).

    Ethnic minority graduates from ID courses are more than twice as likely to end up in low‐skilled occupations (25 per cent) compared to ethnic minority graduates from other courses (11 per cent).

    Next steps

    The student research positively indicates that students from less privileged socio‐economic backgrounds and students from ethnic minorities feel that interior design is a career choice for them and are choosing to study it in high numbers.

    However, the results of the post graduate research project and the diversity survey indicate that there may currently be barriers to entry and/or progression in the UK interior design industry.

    The challenge now for the BIID and the wider interior design profession is to ensure that as many students as possible are able to go on to successful careers as interior designers, and that barriers to their success are removed.

    Katherine Elworthy, BIID Chief Operating Officer commented: “Our belief is that the interior design profession should be open to everyone. Whilst we are encouraged by high numbers of students choosing to study interior design, we need to explore how we can support the career progression of those students from ethnic minorities who may not be getting the opportunities to progress once qualified. The recently formed Diversity and Inclusion Committee is actively looking into how we can do this. We need to ensure that all interior designers, at every stage of their careers, have the opportunity to thrive.”

    The research forms an important part of the BIID’s recently launched action plan into Diversity and Inclusion. The initial plan includes Diversity and Inclusion specific training content in the BIID Continuing Professional Development (CPD) calendar and the development of a Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) Strategy to be published in April, which will lay out specific areas for long term action. These initiatives are overseen by the new BIID Diversity and Inclusion Committee who are reviewing the research and recommending next steps as part of the BIID’s long‐term strategy to help foster and encourage a diverse and inclusive interior design profession.

    Main image credit: Unsplash/Edho Pratama

    Hamish Kilburn / 02.03.2021


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