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How a New Program Aims to Increase Diversity in Commercial Real Estate Over Time

The Diversity Partners Program will involve commitments from members both within their own organizations and throughout the industry.

For a number of years, some advocates in commercial real estate have been striving to expand diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) in an industry that generally has been lacking in that department. Now, the Real Estate Executive Council is giving a big boost to DE&I efforts in the sector.

The non-profit council, a trade group for people of color in commercial real estate, recently introduced the Diversity Partners Program. In addition to committing to DE&I goals within their own organizations and throughout the industry, each partner agrees to provide as much as $100,000 in financial support for DE&I initiatives over the course of up to four years.

Among other projects, the money will back the council’s Real Estate Exchange (REEX), which introduces minority high school students to the commercial real estate industry; the council’s mentorship program, which supports people of color at all levels of commercial real estate; and the council’s Board Readiness Initiative, which prepares commercial real estate executives of color to serve on the boards of public companies.

Founding members of the program include Ferguson Partners, a recruiting firm; industry trade groups NAIOP, the National Multifamily Housing Council and The Real Estate Roundtable; and Ventas, a health care REIT.

In a Q&A with WMRE, Ken McIntyre, CEO of the Real Estate Executive Council, discusses the Diversity Partners Program and the ongoing lack of diversity in commercial real estate.

This Q&A has been edited for length, style and clarity.

WMRE: What is the idea behind the Diversity Partners Program? What are some of its key components?

Ken-McIntyre.jpgKen McIntyre: The Diversity Partners Program was created out of the collective realization that diversity, equity and inclusion efforts in commercial real estate industry have had underwhelming results. The Real Estate Executive Council recognized that although there was commitment to DE&I by many companies and organizations in commercial real estate, those efforts have been siloed rather than collaborative. For an industry where partnerships are a paradigm that is frequently employed on projects and developments, we offered to bring that paradigm to the efforts behind DE&I.

The key components are a commitment by the partners to improve DE&I within their companies or organizations, thus resulting in better DE&I across the industry. This will be achieved by leveraging the Real Estate Executive Council and other diversity-focused, not-for-profit organizations in commercial real estate to make gains in hiring and promoting diverse talent at all levels of the organization; hiring and supporting diverse vendors and suppliers; improving access to capital and credit for diverse entrepreneurs, developers, investment managers and communities; and promoting transparency and accountability around DE&I.

To accomplish this, the Real Estate Executive Council recommends that each partner develop a diversity business plan with a focus on goals and measurements, as well as clarity about who is accountable for these goals.

WMRE: What are some measurable goals you have for this program? How will you know whether this program has been successful?

Ken McIntyre: Since each partnership is tailored to the specific partner, there are no measurable goals for the program in the aggregate. Rather, there are goals for each partnership that will be determined mutually. When all the partnerships are combined, we will be able to determine the collective goal.

WMRE: What is involved in being a partner in this program?

Ken McIntyre: Partners agree to provide a sustaining financial contribution to the Real Estate Executive Council of $25,000 a year for multiple years. The number of years varies by partner. This money enables the Real Estate Executive Council to develop and expand initiatives that the partners will use to achieve their goals, such as having access to pools of talent who are better prepared through their participation in these initiatives.

WMRE: How do you assess the state of diversity in commercial real estate?

Ken McIntyre: The state of diversity in commercial real estate is underwhelming. Clearly, there should be more diversity throughout the industry at all levels. Given the trends in demographics, diversity should be increasing in the industry. However, it feels like that is not the case. At the senior levels, it is clearly not the case.

WMRE: What are some things that commercial real estate businesses can do to improve diversity within their organizations?

Ken McIntyre: The most important thing that businesses can do is become intentional about diversity and incorporate it into every decision that the business makes. This includes developing a diversity plan that includes clear goals for diversity in their workforce at all levels and a target percentage of corporate spending and investing that goes to diverse businesses and communities.

WMRE: What does the future hold for diversity in commercial real estate?

Ken McIntyre: Now that there has been an awakening across the industry in the aggregate, the commitments that companies are making to diversity will result in improvements that might not happen quickly, but will be noticeable in time.

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