Key Findings From the 2023 APA Member Equity Survey

The American Planning Association (APA) is fortunate to have a long history of members championing the advancement of equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI). Prioritize Equity, the APA board-approved strategic initiative, is focused on achieving and maintaining the necessary culture and infrastructure for APA to advance EDI, ensure APA attracts and activates diverse talent, and strengthen the ability of members, elected leaders, volunteers, and staff to create impact.

To best understand member perceptions and experiences related to EDI, APA fielded an equity survey in 2023 to obtain a measurable understanding of how and where APA currently stands, and can also provide support. The survey was completely anonymous to ensure respondents felt comfortable sharing their thoughts. Additionally, all survey questions were optional.

Overall, APA's equity survey garnered an 11 percent response rate, which exceeds industry standard response rates of five to seven percent according to our survey partner. The measurable responses from this survey enable APA to establish benchmarks for future efforts. Read on for more about the findings from the 2023 equity survey.

Survey Perspectives

The survey asked respondents to measure APA's EDI journey from two perspectives: within APA, and the workplace and beyond. While APA does not influence member workplaces, this feedback can help identify possible areas where APA and its components might be able to best support our members.

Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) Definitions

APA's equity survey fielded responses from membership around the issues of equity, diversity and inclusion, defined by APA as follows:

Equity is the value-driven correction of identified practices and inequities that provides access to opportunities and needed resources for disadvantaged groups and individuals. An equity approach recognizes the lack of benefits that have accrued to historically underserved communities as a result of past discriminatory practices.

Diversity is the inclusion of all in a manner not limited by race, ethnicity, class, gender, age, sexuality, ability, educational attainment, spiritual beliefs, creed, culture, tribal affiliation, nationality, immigration status, political beliefs, or veteran status, so as to embrace varied perspectives, experiences, backgrounds, talents, and interests in all human efforts.

Inclusion is an environment in which all individuals are treated fairly and respectfully and where their inherent worth and dignity are recognized. Inclusion values individuals' distinctive skills, experiences, and perspectives, and fosters a sense of belonging. Inclusivity enables equal access to resources and opportunities, and allows all to contribute fully.

63% of respondents want to see an overall investment in EDI

More than half of the 2023 survey respondents want to see a continued investment in EDI from APA.

Within APA

EDI is a priority

More than half of the respondents want to see a continued investment in EDI from APA. The highest levels of priority were seen from respondents in historically underrepresented groups, including Black or African American members, entry-level professionals, females, Asian American and Pacific Islanders, younger members (under 41), and those who identify with a sexual orientation other than heterosexual.

Eighty percent of respondents felt that APA recognizes individuals have various identities that intersect and overlap. This is an increase of 15 percent from when APA last surveyed members about identities in early 2020. Sixty-six percent of respondents felt that APA encourages a culture that is inclusive and open to all individuals.

Respondents were asked where they felt APA was excelling at integrating EDI. Three areas were identified:

Respondents rank three areas APA excels in: Education, Tools and Guidance, and Content.

Survey respondents ranked APA as excelling in the areas of education, tools and guidance, and content.

"Developing planning tools and policy guidance. Incorporating EDI into the code of ethics was critical and long overdue."
— Survey respondent

Desire more EDI education

Respondents also ranked education as the top area where APA should focus its efforts to help advance and apply EDI in practice. Education included virtual and in-person learning, a diversity of speakers and topics, and cultural training. Respondents indicated they look to APA, and their workplace, to provide practical tools, tactics, and a variety of learning experiences to advance EDI.

Practical applications of how planners are threading equity into their work are demonstrated through the Equity in Practice case studies. These are tangible examples that are diverse in both geography and municipality size covering a wide range of topics, including overcoming past harms, cultural preservation, community engagement, and improving safety and accessibility.

Additionally, APA's Upskilling Strategic Initiative is focused on providing planners with more advanced skills to excel in the workplace and the communities they serve. Recent trainings have focused on empathy compassion and conflict management.

One-third of respondents who support DEI face resistance or have other priorities.

Survey respondents favorable to EDI indicated they face resistance to advancing EDI in their work environment or are burdened with other priorities.

Beyond APA

The second perspective of the survey looked at respondents' experiences inside and outside of their workplace. While APA does not influence these areas, there may be ways and opportunities for APA to support its members.

Respondents face barriers

Among the respondents who support EDI, one-third face resistance in their work environment or are burdened with other priorities. Additionally, females and Black or African American respondents are the most likely to indicate having faced resistance when advancing EDI within their communities. Twelve percent of respondents indicated they were unsure or unable to identify inequitable planning in their community.

Outside of the workplace, respondents were asked to indicate if any personal attributes negatively impacted their experiences. The survey also included two new attributes — neurodiversity and body image. In 2020, survey respondents ranked socioeconomic status as the top attribute impacting their experiences. For 2023, we saw age rank as the top attribute impacting experiences.

2023 Rank
(Very, Often & Sometimes)
2020 Rank
(Major Impact)
Your age 44% 23%
Your gender identity 28% 23%
Your race and/or ethnicity 26% 29%
Your body image 28% N/A
Your socioeconomic status 21% 32%
Your religion/spirituality 21% 16%
Your sexual orientation 13% 15%
Your neurodiversity 12% N/A
Your ability/disability status 11% 13%

Workplaces have policies against harassment and discrimination

Survey findings indicate that 86 percent of respondent workplaces have anti-sexual harassment policies and 88 percent have anti-discrimination policies. Additionally, 54 percent are required to take anti-harassment training and 51 percent are required to take anti-discrimination training at least annually.

In terms of experiencing and witnessing harassment or discrimination, 76 percent of respondents have not witnessed sexual harassment in their workplace and 73 percent have not experienced sexual harassment in their workplace. Fifty-one percent of respondents reported not witnessing discrimination (i.e. unfair treatment) in the workplace, while 59 percent reported not experiencing discrimination. A similar version of this question was asked of respondents in 2020, with 54 percent reporting they have not witnessed or experienced bias, discrimination, or harassment in the workplace.

Continued Equity Momentum

Equity remains a priority for APA. The findings from this survey will continue to influence APA's equity work as we thread equity through all facets of the organization from the National Planning Conference to professional development.

Thanks to everyone who provided their feedback for the survey.

Top image: iStock / Getty Images Plus - Pakin Jarerndee

About the authors
Dina Walters is part of APA's equity team. Roberta Rewers is APA's senior communications manager and project manager of the Prioritize Equity initiative.

May 1, 2024

By Dina Walters, Roberta Rewers