“For while we have our eyes on the future, history has its eyes on us. This is the era of just redemption we feared at its inception.” Amanda Gorman
As we celebrated Black History Month here in the United States, we at White +Burke asked ourselves: how diverse and inclusive are we in the commercial real estate (CRE) profession? What changes are occurring? And what can Vermont CREs do to take responsibility in the efforts for equality?
Is there diversity in the CRE profession?
The CRE profession is one of the least diverse sectors in the economy in both race and gender and it has been slow to address this. The statistics tell a bleak story. A study conducted in 2017 by Bella Research Group and the Knight Foundation found that 75% of senior executive jobs in the US CRE industry were held by white men with only 1.3% held by Black men. White women held 14.1% of these jobs with non-white women held less than 1%. Out of 889 CRE firms, they found that ownership was a staggeringly low 0.7% by women and 2% by minorities. This would explain why many Black CREs do not work with other Black CREs often and they find there are few mentors and friends within the industry.
Black CREs are often not included as equals resulting in having to work harder to be recognized for their contributions. For Black History Month, multi-media firm BISNOW that focuses on the commercial real estate industry, celebrated twenty-four black CRE executives from developers, brokers, and builders to economic development officials and policy makers, who are shaping the commercial real estate industry and impacting a much larger world around them. Learn more about these exceptional people here. https://www.bisnow.com/national/news/commercial-real-estate/25-black-executives-shaping-cre-103099
How are CRE professionals addressing diversity and inclusion following the past tumultuous year?
Some are beginning to acknowledge there is a diversity problem within the profession. Beyond the fundamental reality that everyone should be treated equally and have a seat at the table, teams with diversity of thought and experience have been shown to drive innovation. Embracing diversity and inclusion in the workplace is also important because our demographics are changing. But simply recruiting and hiring diverse populations is not enough. It is companies that create cultures that are genuinely welcoming and inclusive that will achieve successful results.
There are several organizations that are leading change to promote talented minority professionals in real estate through industry resources and relationship development.
- Based on events of 2020, Project REAP has outlined a call to action for the C-Suites of CRE firms and Fortune 500 companies to be intentional about diversity, build in diversity to the supply chain and tie key performance indicators to CEO compensation, invest in diverse sponsors, and share their professional networks. https://www.projectreap.org/reap-call-to-action.
- The Real Estate Executive Council (REEC), a trade association for commercial real estate professionals of color, recently launched a diversity partners program for achieving workplace, supplier, and capital allocation diversity and equality in the industry. https://reec.org/index.htm
- The CCIM Institute offers programs providing skills for minorities and other diverse populations wishing to enter CRE. https://www.ccim.com/
Are there suggestions on creating diversity and equity in CRE that are relevant for Vermont?
While there is a large effort underway nationally to change the demographics of the CRE profession, those of us in Vermont need to look closely at our beliefs and practices. We must work to make it easier and more accessible to enter the CRE profession. The following are ideas for hiring, mentoring, and support that CRE professionals in Vermont should consider.
- Take a different approach to recruiting new staff. As Reggie Samuel of the Leumas Group said in a recent Commercial Property Executive article “Too frequently we feel that Black talent is too hard to find,” said Samuel. “I think the problem is that we’re all fishing for freshwater bass using saltwater tackle.” When your firm is recruiting, consider reaching out to smaller and more diverse colleges rather than limiting selections to a few colleges or only ones in the region.
- Support networking organizations focusing on Black CREs. Another potential source of minority talent is through networking organizations and opportunities. One example is a new organization founded in San Diego for Black CRE professionals is the Black Commercial Real Estate Network (BCREN). The mission of BCREN is to provide a community of connection, idea sharing, support, and mentorship for Black members of the commercial real estate industry. The goal is to create a network of Black professions across the country. Can Vermont lead the way by starting a New England network of BCREN?
- Contract with minority owned businesses. Support Black and minority owned businesses and professionals that are involved in commercial real estate projects.
If we want to see the CRE profession become more diverse, we must all contribute in actionable ways. Let us work together to build a more diverse CRE profession in Vermont.
By: Gail Henderson-King