Skip navigation
Diversity-illo-Diana Ong -TS-71261466.jpg

How Long Will True Diversity Elude Commercial Real Estate?

Industry organizations, including IREM, are making strides, but more needs to be done.

Diversity and inclusion should be the fabric of every commercial real estate organization. So says the Deloitte “2019 Commercial Real Estate Industry Outlook.” We’ve quoted that work before in this space, and with good reason. As the above reference can tell you, there is much to be gained from it.

Here’s just one other example of how the Deloitte survey emphasizes our need to lead with diversity: Companies in this space, “should facilitate focused awareness-building sessions for majority-population members addressing the value of and mechanisms for creating inclusion and connection within the organization. Companies should also consider mentorship programs to help women and minorities prepare for leadership roles, and vice versa, to help senior leaders appreciate and value diverse up-and-coming talent.”

So let’s have it said: Diversity and inclusion are still lacking in this industry, and we need to catch up. This is why conferences, including our own upcoming Global Summit, still need to drive home the importance of diversity within and at the leading edge of our ranks.

Corporate diversity programs and initiatives among the various industry associations that represent them are also addressing that disparity. IREM is certainly doing its share, beyond the scope of the summit, through our diversity advisory board and the diversity and inclusion succession initiative. BOMA International, CREW Network and other associations are also spreading the gospel of diversity.

As I write this, I am about to hand the president’s gavel over to Cheryl Ann Gray, CPM. Happily, Cheryl is not the first woman to hold this position. But we have worked shoulder-to-shoulder on IREM’s executive committee for years now. I know of no one who could better serve, not only as an industry leader, but also as an example for women and others who feel underrepresented in our profession, including people of color and of varying races and ethnicities—someone to inspire them to take their rightful places.

There is good news in our ranks as well. In 2007, only 5.3 percent of our CPM candidates were black, and less than five percent were Asian or Latino. Today, black candidates account for 11.9 percent of membership, and Latinos come in a close second at 9.4 percent. Asians still lag at 4.1 percent. According to our latest poll numbers, 53.6 percent of CPMs and 63.7 percent of CPM candidates are female.

As promising as those numbers are, clearly more work needs to be done. We will know we have achieved true diversity when we are no longer talking about glass ceilings, when such programs as those mentioned above are no longer called for, when features such as Real Estate Forum’s long-standing Women of Influence are no longer needed, and when NREI no longer needs to ask the question “Is the CRE Industry Getting Any More Diverse?”

I truly believe that IREM is ahead of the diversity curve. The numbers I quoted above indicate progress, but there are still miles to go. We have written before in this space about the outreach, to colleges and primary schools, that the commercial real estate industry as a whole needs to accomplish to create a viable succession in this aging and still largely monolithic profession.

Other industries outside of commercial real estate are tackling the diversity issue head on. That means our constituents are becoming more diverse, which impacts directly on the quality of representation we as an industry can provide.

Don Wilkerson is 2018/2019 president of the Institute of Real Estate Management. In addition, he serves as president and CEO of Gaston and Wilkerson Management in Reno, Nev.

Hide comments


  • Allowed HTML tags: <em> <strong> <blockquote> <br> <p>

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.