The State of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in Commercial Real Estate

The Global Real Estate DEI Survey, which represented over 357,000 employees and 192 organizations in North America, Europe, and Asia Pacific, collected data between July 28 and October 7, 2022. Conducted by Ferguson Partners, the study tracked ethnicity, nationality, and gender across job functions and seniority. 

It examined corporate practices related to DE&I programs, inclusivity, training and development, recruitment, retention, and pay equity. The most recent report found that, as a whole, CRE organizations continue working to broaden and deepen diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives and programs.

Key Takeaways

This survey — produced in partnership with ANREV, INREV, NAREIM, NCREIF, PREA, REALPAC, and ULI — is the only one of its type, empowering global CRE firms to benchmark their own DEI metrics and policies and learn from each other. The key takeaways learned from the most recent survey include the following.

  • The most important DEI goal across all participants is increasing the representation of senior professionals including women and other underrepresented groups.
  • Over 86% of formal programs set quantitative and/or qualitative DEI goals.
  • Just over 41% of firms train their managers in anti-bias hiring.
  • 100% of organizations are addressing gender and/or gender identity.
  • Nearly 94% are addressing race, ethnicity, and nationality.
  • Other DEI topics organizations place a high degree of importance on include sexual orientation, age, disability, religion, mental health, and neurodiversity.

Addressing DEI Issues

The survey concluded that firms are doing more — not less — to address DEI issues. In addition to increasing underrepresented groups at the senior level, many firms have also committed to improving employee engagement by:

  • Communicating the importance of DEI to all employees.
  • Implementing work/life balance programs.
  • Filling hiring pipelines with candidates from underrepresented groups.
  • Addressing pay inequity.

In 2023, many CRE firms plan to continue developing and implementing various DEI initiatives including anti-bias measures within recruitment and hiring processes. In addition to training hiring managers, HR personnel plan to review application processes, assessments and postings to eliminate conscious and unconscious bias. Firms plan to develop robust, representative candidate pools that include commonly underrepresented demographics.

Industry awareness of pay inequality has gradually increased and addressing pay disparities will also be a priority for this year. According to Commercial Real Estate Women Network (CREW), the industry has been fairly stagnant for about 15 years — and the pandemic delayed the progress of women in the industry. A 2020 CREW report found a 10% salary gap between men and women and a nearly 56% gap in commissions and bonuses. White women earned an average of $57,600 in commissions and bonuses and Black women earned just $34,079, whereas white men earned an average of $121,000.

Pay parity benefits not only those groups, like women, who have traditionally received lower pay but also the companies themselves, by:

  • Attracting more diverse talent pools.
  • Decreasing employee turnover.
  • Elevating employee trust in leadership — leading to higher productivity and retention.
  • Enhancing companies’ reputations among their employees, clients, and the community.
  • Fostering workplace diversity.
  • Improving business activity and overall performance.

Introducing the Next Generation to CRE

One theory about this disparity is that many women are unaware of CRE opportunities, tend to shy away from commission roles, and don’t explore the brokerage side of the business. Several organizations, including CoreNet, are connecting with high school and college students to introduce them to commercial real estate sooner. 

The Urban Plan program, created by Urban Land Institute Northern New Jersey (ULI NNJ), involves a partnership with the organization and local students. This program challenges students to develop a fictitious RFP for an infill development. Students use Lego blocks to build various scenarios. “It’s tied to a pro forma,” says Mara Winkour, executive director of ULI NNJ. “So on top of setting up real-life implications for students and instilling leadership skills, it offers insight into an industry that is mostly vague to younger people. We’re trying to reach those young kids and let them know these are professions that exist within the CRE space.”

The Women’s Leadership Initiative also started ULI NNJ’s monthly CONNECT. RELATE. EDUCATE events. These events support mentoring and leadership training, giving participants the chance to learn what each other does, bring more women to the table, and share opportunities. 

Positive Outcomes Generated by Successful DEI Efforts

Diversity offers a valuable tool for success. Diverse teams are more resilient and make better decisions. And those companies with greater ethnic and cultural diversity outperform companies by more than 35%. 

Many studies have shown DEI’s potential to increase sales revenue, grow customer bases, and drive up profits. So not only is it the right thing to champion, but it’s also good business sense. Companies failing to prioritize DEI risk falling behind the competition because they will struggle to attract top talent. Lacking a highly-qualified workforce leads to challenges in meeting business goals.

CRE companies positioning themselves as DEI advocates should:

  • Embrace being an industry leader in hiring and pay equity.
  • Identify and understand the implications of the workforce’s changing demographics, adapting HR practices, business operations, and strategies to meet the needs of current and future employees and clients.
  • Implement DEI policies and processes to increase morale and encourage innovation and engagement by ensuring everyone has a voice. 

Cultivating a diverse workplace fosters a culture passionate about encouraging and supporting creative thinking — a key to driving company growth. DEI helps support the bottom line.

Are you a commercial real estate investor or looking for a specific property to meet your company’s needs? We invite you to talk to the professionals at CREA United: an organization of CRE professionals from 92 firms representing all disciplines within the CRE industry, from brokers to subcontractors, financial services to security systems, interior designers to architects, movers to IT, and more. 

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