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CRG Taps First Person Of Color For Its Leadership Team

Jennifer Nichols and her husband, Lennon Jones

CRG hired Jennifer Nichols as senior vice president and general counsel. She’s the first person of color to join its senior leadership team and the sixth new senior executive hired in the past 12 months.

Nichols joined CRG from Harsch Investment Properties in Portland, Oregon, where in the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder, she took a leadership role in a new diversity initiative. She wants to play a similar role at CRG, the real estate development and investment arm of Chicago-based Clayco, and she told Bisnow she brings a unique perspective.

“As anyone can see from my photo, I am a minority who is white-passing, so I am a minority with white privilege,” she said. “I experience racial issues differently, but I appreciate what other employees were going through.”

Last summer, Nichols and other Harsch employees who are Black, indigenous or people of color decided they needed to talk openly about Floyd’s murder as well as the lack of diversity within the commercial real estate industry and the impact of these issues. They started up a series of coffee talks, open to everyone at the firm.

“We knew we had to do something, so we took it head-on, and although not everyone was on board, we created a safe space, and I think we opened some eyes,” she said.

About 60% to 70% of the mostly White firm’s employees attended the talks, she added. Nichols led a conversation about White privilege, and another discussion focused on microaggressions in the workplace.   

“What I gleaned from a lot of people is they had a lack of experience,” she said.

But for the most part, her White co-workers were receptive to learning and understanding from someone else’s perspective.

“That’s what it’s about,” Nichols said. “It’s about progress, not perfection.”  

Nichols has 15 years of legal experience and will oversee all legal, compliance and risk management. Prior to her work as vice president and general counsel at Harsch, she was deputy general counsel for Banner Real Estate Group and an attorney with Chicago-based Ginsberg Jacobs LLC. She has also held positions with the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe of Michigan and Warner Norcross & Judd LLP.

Nichols said she will work with CRG to further develop its existing diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives.

“Post-George Floyd, you had a lot of companies jumping on the diversity bandwagon, but Clayco and CRG have a real commitment to it,” she said.