By Kristine Maggio
March 29, 2021
Companies worldwide are taking a fresh look at diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) in the workplace. And for good reason. According to a 2020 McKinsey & Company report, more than a third of companies have no women on their executive teams, and nearly 90% have no ethnic minority representation.
The statistics for underrepresented groups in commercial real estate (CRE) parallel these findings. For CRE to evolve, change must begin with leaders who recognize the value of different perspectives and are committed to enhancing DEI within their companies and across the industry.
Measure the Problem
The only way to effect change is first to understand the full extent of the issue. Take stock of your company’s workforce diversity through analytics. Measure the company along with individual departments or service lines. The more data you have, the better equipped you are to identify specific opportunities for improvement, set clear goals, and create realistic initiatives that deliver results.
When Transwestern embarked on refining its DEI program, we didn’t appoint a DEI executive. Instead, we enlisted the voices of underrepresented groups from across the country as well as those passionate about advancing DEI to build a framework around awareness, belonging, training, and talent that guides how national and local teams operate.
Through this process, leaders and team members are learning how to create environments that elevate the human spirit, celebrate individuality and champion collaboration to bring out the best in everyone. They are committed to the effort because they’ve helped define its goals.
Reduce Barriers to Entry
The barriers preventing underrepresented groups from embarking on a career in CRE are most apparent in the historical ways the industry has recruited from a small group of colleges, associations and employee networks. As a result, women and minorities are often unaware of existing opportunities and overlooked as viable candidates.
Embed DEI into your company’s talent management process by expanding recruiting outreach to historically black colleges and universities, cultivating relationships with organizations that support diversity, and establishing talent sourcing partnerships with job training programs in underserved communities.
Women and minorities are often overlooked when leaders assign management responsibilities or form project teams, which can make them feel undervalued or marginalized. Foster a greater sense of belonging by creating space for underrepresented groups on your teams, paying attention to how often they are given the same opportunities as their counterparts, and correcting any disparities.
To deepen connectivity and nurture career advancement, encourage frank dialogue and idea sharing, create inclusive mentorship programs, and provide opportunities for all team members to interact with senior leadership, other departments, or other offices.
Empower People To Do Extraordinary Things
Cultivating an inclusive workplace is not only the right thing to do – it’s also good for business. McKinsey & Company found that companies in the top quartile for executive gender diversity “were 25% more likely to have above-average profitability than companies in the fourth quartile.” Companies in the top quartile for ethnic diversity outperformed by 36%.
Simply put, DEI can have a significant impact on the bottom line. Diverse teams bring more profound knowledge, broader perspectives and better ideas to the table. In an industry as competitive as commercial real estate, delivering innovation and marked differentiation is the vehicle that wins business, and a diverse team produces the most powerful engine.
Commit to Continuous Improvement
There is no one-size-fits-all approach to DEI programming and training. To be successful, everyone must do the work and be willing to adapt. One training session is not enough to promote positive, sustainable change. DEI is a continual conversation and educational opportunity that repeatedly asks, “How are we doing and how can we improve?”
Critically evaluating and challenging strategies, processes, and perceptions while sharing insights with transparency keeps organizations honest and on the path to becoming more diverse, equitable and inclusive.
Kristine Maggio is Executive Vice President of Marketing & Administration for Transwestern’s East Region and a leader on the national DEI steering committee.
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