A panel discusses diversity initiatives under way at their company during the Nareit Dividends Through Diversity meeting.
Nareit's Dividends for Diversity session this week was a great opportunity for discussion among HR folks in the REIT space. The program touched on many of the topics that we have been talking about at CREW Network for some time: talent acquisition and pipeline, cultural change in CRE companies, and the most crucial factor of all – diversity starting at the top of the organization.
Many of you have heard me speak of the importance of changing the culture in companies. It doesn’t matter how many diverse people you hire – if they don’t feel included, they won’t stay. At the Nareit event, several speakers touched on the word “belonging” rather than inclusion. I believe that’s true. From the time we are very young, we want to belong. We want to find our people and feel a sense of comradery and connection. That environment needs to be cultivated in our CRE companies.
The event speakers also addressed the evidence that diversity propels performance and innovation, which fuels bottom line growth. There is research that supports this fact, which is mentioned in CREW Network’s 2017 white paper, Diversity: The Business Advantage. All of the panelists agreed that from a business standpoint, partners and clients are key factors – they are diverse and expect their business partners to be diverse. Sounds like a simple request…but we have a very long way to go.
Diversity is no longer “nice to have.” Commercial real estate companies must demonstrate specific efforts on the diversity front to ensure their long-term connectivity to the larger business community. Intentional transformation of company culture and mindful inclusion create a “belongingness” to attract and retain the younger generation of leaders, new business partners and clients. Commitment to these two aspects of business – culture and people – will attract the talent and delivery the diversity of thought that will make companies competitive moving into the future.
Nareit has taken a great first step with their first Dividends Through Diversity event. ICSC has done the same, as well as NMHC and NAIOP. There are many industry initiatives. I believe there is tremendous strength in numbers. Think about the impact we might have with a unified effort. With the collective power, talent and savvy of all the commercial real estate organizations, there is no doubt in my mind that we can move diversity forward in an industry that must change to realize the bottom line value.
We are on a journey that has taken far too long. We should not need to advocate for women in CRE. As one woman pointed out at the recent event, “when we are no longer talking about it, I’ll know we are there.” Amen, sister.
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Wendy Mann is the chief executive officer of Commercial Real Estate Women (CREW) Network and president of the CREW Network Foundation.