The concept of diversity, equity and inclusion dates back to the 1960s. As times have changed, so has what it represents. But our current understanding of DEI has been in the lexicon for some time. Perhaps a point highlighted by the fact that 92% of commercial real estate companies globally have a diversity, equity and inclusion program or initiatives in place, according to The Global Real Estate DEI survey. Survey 2021. Outside of the companies themselves, trade associations and organizations are also working to institute DEI efforts for their members and the wider industry.
And while not all courses are the same – for example, 47% of GRE survey respondents said their company had a formal DEI program, while 45% said they adopted “some DEI initiatives and/or policies to improve DEI” – goals are shared in kind. “Talking about diversity [in the industry] and how we can make things better for everyone, and why diversity is important, not only because it’s a good thing to do, but it’s also good for business,” said Kristine Hurlbut, co-chair of the CoreNet New Jersey Committee on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. . “It brings in new perspectives and new innovation by being able to bring in these diverse people from different backgrounds who have different ideas and different initiatives.”
An integral part of bringing in these new people is finding new people. But it is also important to think about creating new scenarios. As Hurlbut pointed out, “Commercial real estate is about relationships and networking.” In fact, that’s how she met co-chair Elizabeth Geary-Archer of FCA Architects. “So who would have thought that just going to talk to this person at an NAIOP event would turn into this opportunity for me?”
CoreNet New Jersey’s DEI committee was launched about nine months ago, according to Hurlbut, who is also senior vice president of leasing for Red Bank-based Denholtz Properties. “[W]We’re trying to do a good job, trying to change the industry, but it’s hard, you know, progress is slow,” she told NJBIZ.
Mara Winokur, executive director of the Urban Land Institute Northern New Jersey, expressed a similar sentiment. “DCI initiatives are a type of work that really takes a lot of time and part of it is organic and part of it is a lot of blood and sweat and tears – to be honest. You don’t always see results upfront and it’s hard to compare where we are.
The Urban Land Institute of Northern New Jersey’s Women’s Leadership Initiative was launched four years ago and Winokur said the group – led by co-chairs Stephanie Turkot, deputy project manager at GZA, and Amanda Forsburg , senior project scientist at Langan – has grown exponentially since then. Being a member of the group isn’t just about leading DEI’s efforts, though, as Winokur pointed out, “it really is a great place to get involved for women in the CRE space.” ULI NNJ currently has around 380 members, 26.7% of whom are women, which Winokur says is below the global average.
The GRE study pegged the split between men and women working in the industry in North America at 59% and 41%, respectively. This figure marks an increase from CREW Network’s 2020 Benchmark Research Report, which found that women accounted for almost 37% of the industry, a percentage which at the time had not changed much in 15 year.
Beyond the shift in gender diversity, the GRE study found that 7 in 10, or 69%, of professionals in North America are white, with Asian, Hispanic or Latino and Black or African American professionals representing 26%.
“A lot of times you walk into a CRE event and it’s mostly men and if you’re a woman and you don’t know the people, it can be very intimidating,” Winokur said. “So we’re trying to bridge that gap and kind of serve as ambassadors and leaders for other women who are looking to make those connections and amplify the voices of women in real estate who can serve as role models for more. other women, in particular, and other minorities who are… part of this diversity equity and inclusion initiative that we’ve really been putting in place over the last few years.
One of the ways the CoreNet DEI Committee seeks to foster a sense of inclusiveness is by trying to work with other groups within the organization – such as the Asia-Pacific and Hispanic Committees – to create opportunities for networking. Additionally, in 2023, Hurlbut said they would partner with CREW — she and Geary-Archer are both members — on some joint events.
“[I]It’s important to also try to create those relationships when they’re not necessarily organic,” Hurlbut said. “So that’s what we’re trying to do – that’s what we’ve had conversations about in particular. So make sure we include people when you’re networking.
One of the obstacles to cultivating these links is the generational nature of the CRE. Cushman & Wakefield had initiatives that predated its official DEI program, but were introduced in 2020. Across its global workforce, the company has 40% women. In addition, 42% of its people managers and new hires, 22% of its executives and about 40% of the board come from diverse backgrounds. And for New Jersey executive general manager Peter Bronsnick, DEI has been a top priority since its inception.
“There is no formula for success or how you get into our industry. It’s a bit of the “Wild West”, he says, adding that in comparison, other careers – such as that of a lawyer, a health professional or even an investment banker – offer specific paths and structured. And DEI’s efforts actively seek to harness this new vision by crossing these generational boundaries and bringing more young people into the industry. CoreNet is reaching out to high school and college students “to let them know commercial real estate exists,” Hurlbut said — and to let them know it offers multiple activities. As part of the effort, dubbed Lunch Break, students from Red Bank Regional High School stopped by Denholtz’s office.
“If you don’t show up, if you don’t in college, I didn’t know what commercial real estate was when I was in high school. So given the opportunity to understand: this is commercial real estate, this is what we do. We own buildings, there are engineers, there are architects – commercial real estate has so many different career paths.
‘Everyone is responsibility’
Experts convened by NJBIZ offered advice on how companies of all sizes can promote diversity, equity and inclusion in the workplace. Learn more or watch the discussion here.
ULI NNJ also tries to reach young people and create opportunities for diversity within the industry. The group’s city plan program works at both high school and university levels, allowing students to develop a mock RFP for infill development, or even build different scenarios with Legos. “And it’s tied to a pro forma,” Winokur said. So, in addition to setting up real-world implications for students and instilling leadership skills, it also offers insight into an industry that is typically vague for young people. “And we try to do that in schools where there’s a lot of diversity as well,” she added. “We’re trying to reach out to these young kids and let them know that these are professions that exist in the CRE space.”
Brosnick said Cushman & Wakefield also partners with universities. “[T]his business requires a lot of time to ramp up whichever path you want to take and there really isn’t a big playbook in general,” he said. These efforts are deployed throughout the global real estate society; in New Jersey, Brosnick said he and his colleagues have had conversations with Monmouth and Rutgers universities, both of which have real estate programs.
Outside of schools, Brosnick said his office has partnered with Newark All Stars. Recently, two interns from the program worked in the office last summer.
Visibility is also essential. Overall, CoreNet NJ has between 200 and 250 members, Hurlbut said, and DEI’s board of directors includes mostly women.
The GRE study found that 52% of all full-time junior employees in North America were women. But the gender representation gap widens the higher you look: women make up just 21% of board positions. For senior management (20%) and senior management (29%) positions, the figures are about the same and leave a lot of room for improvement.
“I think it’s very important that we serve as role models and mentors. And we have a number of initiatives on the drawing board right now for mentorship programs, internship programs, scholarships for DEI community members to try to grow that pipeline of people coming into the industry and give them access,” Winokur said.
According to the CREW report, only 56% of survey respondents said they had access to a mentor or sponsor in the past two years. The number was significantly lower for people of color, at 21%.
“I feel like our committee itself develops leaders, just by getting involved with the [group]”, Turkot said. Within the council itself and various sub-committees, members develop social skills, share contacts and learn about different companies and different aspects of the industry, she added. The work is about building leaders and relationships, and this is reinforced by ULI NNJ’s monthly CONNECT.RELATE.EDUCATE events, launched by the Women’s Leadership Initiative.
“The Connect Relate Educate events really give us the opportunity to learn more about what other people are doing and that’s how you continue to bring people to the table and bring more women to the table – that’s is to know what they are doing so you can share opportunities,” Forsbourg said.
The CREW report found that most people – 67% – believe their company has adapted to meet changing workforce needs. Even in light of these statistical advancements, it will take intention and time for this type of rally to reflect these changes, but that’s no reason to see the glass half full.
“I think everyone for a while has been doing a really good job of integrating this as a priority for themselves and you see that in the industry. There are things that happen quite frankly – even some of the things that happen unofficially in less programmatic ways – just raising awareness in the general industry has been good,” Brosnick said.