Diversity: a word that, in recent years, has grown to encompass a larger than life meaning in promoting inclusion in the workplace. It is no longer merely a term repeated in human-resource training sessions; rather it is a critical element of company culture that employers must incorporate and foster at its very core. Needless to say, given how the manner in which the #MeToo movement has shaken the corporate, entertainment and political world, if times are ever going to be a-changin’, it must happen now!
According to NAIOP, the commercial real estate industry generates more than $300 billion in annual revenue and employs millions of individuals in a broad range of high-skill subspecialty areas; however, despite the range of professions, the industry has been characterized as “the least-diverse industry on the planet.” This striking description can be attributed to the reality that commercial real estate is a white male-dominated industry, with only a 35% representation of women in the workforce (and even less for racial minorities). In fact, this disparity becomes increasingly more pronounced at the higher position levels, with only about 22% of women at the senior level. Interestingly, unlike commercial real estate, this imbalance is not as widely present in the residential real estate sector, which has roughly an even number of male and female brokers. The seemingly equitable organizational structure of residential real estate leaves us channeling the persona of former Zen Master Phil Jackson, by asking ourselves why commercial real estate hasn’t found the right balance.
As described in an article published in The Real Deal, the commercial industry is considered to be the more high-risk, “rough-and-tumble” sector of real estate, in which apparent discriminatory practices have raised the barriers to entry. According to the EEOC, “examples of illegal systemic practices include discriminatory barriers in recruitment and hiring, discriminatorily restricted access to management trainee programs and to high level jobs, and exclusion of qualified women from traditionally male-dominated fields of work.” Women, who are 54% less likely than men to have a sponsor in the industry who can provide them with career advice and actively help advance a career path, consider this lack of mentorship the number one barrier to success. As a consequence to this barrier, they are less likely to aspire to C-Suite positions.
Not only is diversity morally essential at a company, it is a huge contributor to the bottom line. A mix of voices, opinions, and thoughts make companies more effective, thus providing a better business performance. Therefore, monitoring pay rates and installing hiring quotas is not enough; commercial real estate companies need to – in the words of rock n’ roll legends The Beatles – Come Together and create policies that support the advancement of women and other minority groups.
MLB Hall of Fame Manager Leo Durocher, also known as Leo the Lip, didn’t get to manage Jackie Robinson’s 1st game as a Dodger as he was suspended for the 1947 season just before Jackie’s first game, however he played a noteworthy role in erasing baseball’s color line when he said to some of the then racist Dodgers, “I do not care if the guy is yellow or black, or if he has stripes like a f*ckin’ zebra. I’m the manager of this team, and I say he plays. What’s more, I say he can make us all rich.” Anyone think that when Leo said “rich” that he was referring to just money, or more importantly, what the players could learn and grow from just being around Jackie?
We’ll leave you with two more thoughts to ponder:
- This past year at the ICSC retail real estate convention in Las Vegas – which some (such as the older contributor to this post) describe as “THE Greatest Working Boondoggle in America” – I was fixated on the sign that hung above the stage at the House of Blues. It prominently read “Unity in Diversity.” As I was enjoying yet another melodic rift from the legendary and spiritual Carlos Santana, my mind wandered to such thoughts as the lack of diversity in our industry … and why there still aren’t enough women and non-Caucasians in the business. A few one-word answers came to mind, but one that belonged at or near the top of the list of solutions was simply that of ACCESS.
- Maya Angelou, the great poet, singer, memoirist and civil rights activist, once said, “The need for change bulldozed a road down the center of my mind.” With a number of high rise construction projects nearing completion, there must be a few bulldozers stuck in idle, ready to help create a road aptly called “Making a Difference Way.”
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