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Neil Baxter stands down as RIAS secretary with immediate effect

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November 17 2017

Neil Baxter stands down as RIAS secretary with immediate effect
RIAS secretary and treasurer Neil Baxter has tendered his sudden resignation from the architect’s body, ending a decade at the helm of the organisation.

In recent days Baxter’s tenure had come under increasing scrutiny following a widespread revolt among architects at his leadership amidst calls for greater democratic accountability, a lack of impartiality and concerns over finance, governance and salaries.

In a statement RIAS president Stewart Henderson said: “The Royal Incorporation has agreed to the request from our secretary, Neil Baxter Hon FRIAS Hon FRIBA, to leave the organisation after ten years of service.

“Neil will be standing down as of today and the senior management team at the RIAS will continue to deal with all matters relating to the business of the Incorporation.”

Reacting to the news campaign group A New Chapter wrote: "Today’s special announcement from the RIAS confirming Neil Baxter’s resignation as secretary and treasurer raises more questions than answers.  The timing of this announcement is interesting in light of previous questions raised in an open letter to our president of 12th September (based on information in the RIAS Summer Quarterly) regarding governance, finance, strategy and relevance.

"In the most recent RIAS Quarterly the president noted that a RIAS Governance Review Panel had conducted a strategy, which would herald a ‘clean bill of health’ for the organisation.

"Over the past few months A New Chapter has seen a surge in positive thoughts and ideas about what a progressive, 21st century organisation for architects in Scotland might look like, how it might behave and what it might do. We now look to our president and representatives on council to answer our ongoing questions and now, to clarify why the secretary and treasurer has tendered a sudden resignation."

Baxter's responsibilities in the organisation encompassed RIAS policy, governance, business planning and budgets.

19 Comments

adams
#1 Posted by adams on 17 Nov 2017 at 15:03 PM
Good news in that the collective voice of disgruntled members may for a first time be taken seriously. This hopefully is the first of a series of major resets.
Roberto
#2 Posted by Roberto on 17 Nov 2017 at 20:17 PM
I can only imagine that the evidence must have been pretty damning for him to step aside so quickly and without any struggle.

This is no defence of Mr Baxter but I can, to some degree, understand the urge to secure one's position, help your friends and complacently enjoy the reward and trappings of office. Maybe it is just that the arrangement is wrong - a salaried administrator should, like a good civil servant, deliver the agenda of the elected representation and not simply be left to wag the dog's tail and appoint the president himself. No wonder this is the outcome.
Cadmonkey
#3 Posted by Cadmonkey on 18 Nov 2017 at 19:33 PM
I always thought it was a bit strange how the staff ratio under Neil Baxter was so gender unbalanced.
According to the RIAS web site the staff are 14 female, 1 male and a dog.
Surely this needs to be addressed also.
Frank Lloyd Wrong
#4 Posted by Frank Lloyd Wrong on 20 Nov 2017 at 14:17 PM
@Cadmonkey
Yes, the imbalance is terrible isn't it? Bloody women taking over your jobs;

https://www.rias.org.uk/rias/about-the-rias/past-presidents/

50 to 1 past presidents

Get a grip!
fedup
#5 Posted by fedup on 20 Nov 2017 at 16:13 PM
@Cadmonkey I hope you're also as troubled by the fact that 80% of council are male? That's 80% of the group who represent and make decisions on behalf of the whole membership.
CADMonkey
#6 Posted by CADMonkey on 21 Nov 2017 at 08:33 AM
@fedup Given that the proportion of practising female architects is 20% I think the make up of council sounds spot on. Proportional representation is the way to go.

And @Frank Lloyd Wrong, two wrongs do not make a right.
Bill S
#7 Posted by Bill S on 21 Nov 2017 at 10:49 AM
Hmm, something smells a bit fishy here...
fedup
#8 Posted by fedup on 21 Nov 2017 at 11:22 AM
Proportion of female registered architects is actually about 26% UK wide, and probably more than that if you include all the part 1s and 2s who the RIAS is also supposed to represent. But how about representing the proportion of the general population, ya know, those people who actually use the buildings and spaces architects are responsible for creating?

RIAS should be supporting campaigns to widen participation in the profession. Are they? I'm not aware of any. The problem with a lack of diversity at a decision making level is evident in the fact that RIAS doesn't even appear to acknowledge these issues exist.
Cadmonkey
#9 Posted by Cadmonkey on 21 Nov 2017 at 14:45 PM
Proportional representation on counsel to reflect the make up of the membership seems to make sense. As it changes, so can the ratio.
I’m guessing its difficult enough to find people to take up the position anyway, so why make it more difficult?

Architects are a pretty open liberal minded bunch. I can’t imagine they are putting up barriers to equality.

Which brings back to my original conundrum..which why is there an almost complete lack of male employees at RIAS? Just seems odd.
Nairn's Bairn
#10 Posted by Nairn's Bairn on 21 Nov 2017 at 18:13 PM
#8 You're right - getting out and embracing/educating the populace would be beneficial. There is a common view that architects are a sniffy bunch, expensive and ego-driven. Okay some are, but others are approachable folk who offer an affordable and valuable service that would benefit the man in the street. Most architectural work is modest and won't ever feature in Urban Realm, but is the bread and butter of the profession. However it will continue to bypass architects as long as they are seen as elitist and overpriced - what is RIAS's loss is currently CIAT's gain.
Neil
#11 Posted by Neil on 22 Nov 2017 at 11:30 AM
The trouble is at present we hardly have election to council at all - this year for example only 5 candidates to fill 4 seats (and they were elected by a turnout of around 5%) - and that was a good year. Yes, the RIAS may need to get more in touch with its members but the members definitely need to get more involved.

I wonder how many of the signatories of the "new chapter" letters are involved in their chapter, in organising events, in committees and on council - maybe I misjudge them and many of them are.
Frank Lloyd Wrong
#12 Posted by Frank Lloyd Wrong on 22 Nov 2017 at 13:24 PM
@Cadmonkey
Are you seriously suggesting we allow only 20% [sic] of RIAS Council to be female?
Also, by my judging, we should ensure that the next 9 presidents are all female.
I find it bizarre you'd call out the one exception to the imbalance of men to women in our industry and seek for it to be readdressed before presidents, council members, membership or pay gap?
Perhaps this is the reason there are only 26% female architects.
Cadmonkey
#13 Posted by Cadmonkey on 22 Nov 2017 at 14:19 PM
Frank, several issues here.
I’m not setting a limit, but do think the 4:1 ratio is perfectly given the same ratio exists in the profession.
By the sounds of it ( Neil’s post above) there exist s ample opportunity to increase female representation, but nobody is stepping forward. So time to get people motivated!
Regarding role of President this is an important role with serious time commitments. Surely this should be carefully chosen, based purely on merit and availability rather than trying to retrospectively address historic gender imbalance. That makes no sense at all.
I do not think the lower number of women in the industry is because of men. I think there are lots of other reasons than that.
Lastly, does the gender pay gap really exist?
fedup
#14 Posted by fedup on 22 Nov 2017 at 18:14 PM
@neil Even if people are motivated to join, does the current structure of the RIAS allow for change from within?

@cadmonkey Agree with your comments re. the choice of president, it should be based on merit and availability, but does the current procedure for choosing a president facilitate this?

Yes there are multiple reasons for the gender imbalance in Architecture, its up to everyone to work to address this. There's probably a lot of reasons why there are more women than men working at the RIAS, which appears to be mainly admin and communication roles (and part time perhaps?). Funny how when its 80% men you dismiss it as 'a number of reasons' and when its the other way round you're shouting 'positive discrimination!' and demanding change.

Does the gender pay gap really exist? Personally I don't have any experience of it. The annual AJ women in architecture survey suggests otherwise, so the first step might be to find out what your own colleagues get paid. Perhaps if the RIAS leads the way with transparency it might encourage practices to do the same?
Wee Sandy fae Glesga
#15 Posted by Wee Sandy fae Glesga on 23 Nov 2017 at 10:17 AM
Sad that this discussion went from our rudderless professional body to gender issues in only three posts.

In any case, getting the right individual for the job should be more of a priority than their gender. And what if the person suddenly identifies as another gender on Friday afternoon?! Sack them to keep a necessary balance? #naw. Gender equality is now eclipsed by the concept of gender fluidity so let's pipe down on that front and deal with the actual issue.

P.S great work by the New Chapter
FEMALE
#16 Posted by FEMALE on 23 Nov 2017 at 16:53 PM
@cadmonkey DOES THE GENDER PAY GAP EXIST? Yes, yes it does. I have in the past moved jobs because despite being more experienced, harder working and my continual success in projects, my male colleague got paid around 3k to 4k more than me (we were also the same age just to clarify, though it should render irrelevant, it also rarely does). I, of course, chose to question this and got a raise but to not to match his level. So I left. I am absolutely certain this is not an isolated case.

However, why is it even being raised that its 80-20 women to men? Would you have raised this if it was the other way round? You haven't mentioned race, should we discuss this?

Change is good. Let's hope it is for the better.
Fedup
#17 Posted by Fedup on 24 Nov 2017 at 06:41 AM
@FEMALE disappointed to hear of your experience, I hope your departure sent a strong message and you feel valued in your current role.

Amazing how many people on here assume ‘encouraging diversity in the profession’ can only mean creating employment quotas and putting gender/race above ability.

Feel like I’m stating the obvious here, but It’s about breaking down barriers for anyone, with the right skills, who might otherwise be prevented or discouraged from entering the profession, I.e creating a level playing field. An example for gender quality might be to make it easier for dads to increase their share of childcare, by encouraging take-up of shared parental leave and tackling the stigma of part-time / flexible working in the profession...This funnily enough directly benefits both men and women. Or celebrating the work of often overlooked female role models in the profession, to widen everyone’s professional knowledge.
Cadmonkey
#18 Posted by Cadmonkey on 28 Nov 2017 at 16:44 PM
FEMALE
I do not see why resigning and getting a new job in any way sends out a strong message to your previous employer.
You should have requested a meeting with your boss and politely asked that you insist you are paid the same as your male colleagues (so long as you both have the same job title.) or you will take the matter up legally.
They would them have no option but to cough up.
If all women did this the so called”gender pay bay” would disappear completely.

Fedup
I have never supported “positive discrimination”. Any form of discrimination is nonsense.
Nairn's Bairn
#19 Posted by Nairn's Bairn on 12 Dec 2017 at 09:40 AM
I'm surprised the current investigation into the RIAS hasn't made the UR news posts...?
https://www.architectsjournal.co.uk/news/scottish-charities-regulator-launches-rias-investigation/10026098.article

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