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Cushman Report Shines A Light On Real Estate’s Ethnicity Pay Gap

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A new report from Cushman & Wakefield has for the first time provided data on the gap between pay for white workers at a commercial real estate firm and workers who are black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME).

Cushman’s BAME staff are paid on average 24% less than white staff on a median basis, the brokerage said in a pay gap report for its UK business. That does not mean that BAME staff are paid less for doing the same job, which is illegal, but that the average BAME staff member is paid 24% less per hour worked than the average white staff member.

When it comes to bonuses among Cushman’s 1,800 UK staff, the picture is even more stark: The median gap on bonus pay is 57%. 

Cushman Report Shines A Light On Real Estate’s Ethnicity Pay Gap

In 2017, the UK government made it mandatory for firms employing more than 250 people to publish their gender pay gap, but no such regulation exists regarding ethnicity pay gaps. Cushman has produced the data voluntarily, and said it did so in an attempt to improve its performance when it comes to ethnic diversity. It is the first real estate firm to do so. 

Bisnow’s reporting into the experiences of BAME real estate professionals last year suggests Cushman is unlikely to be alone in having an ethnicity pay gap. 

There are some caveats to the data. Workers are not legally obliged to provide data on ethnicity to employers, and so the figures produced cover only 64% of Cushman’s UK staff. It said 12% of its staff are BAME. That compares to 20% of the overall UK workforce, according to Office for National Statistics Data. 

“For us it felt like the obvious next step,” Cushman UK Head of HR Charles Lebeter told Bisnow. “We published data on our gender pay gap for the first time three years ago, and there was a lot of nervousness about what it would show, but as time has gone on people have become more comfortable, and having the data helps you to identify and address the problem. We don’t have data from all of our colleagues, so we would encourage them to provide that data.”

Lebeter said the reasons for the ethnicity pay gap are similar to those that have created a gender pay gap, such as a lack of BAME staff in senior positions in the business. Cushman said in the report that it had reduced its gender pay gap from 33.5% in 2018 to 30.3% in 2019, and that some of the strategies used to reduce the gap for women could be used to do the same thing for BAME staff. 

“It is about doing things internally and externally,” Lebeter said. “We have had to talk openly about the types of candidates we bring in to roles at a senior level: If you fish from the same pool, you get the same outcome. You have to think about roles and what skills they really require. And if you have an all-male shortlist, you have to think about bringing in a more diverse group of candidates.”

Lebeter gave the example of Karen Clements, who joined Cushman in 2018 to run its valuation business. She had no experience as a valuer, Lebeter said, having previously run Capita’s financial and regulatory services business, but was simply a good leader and manager. 

“Internally, it is about making sure you have the right people going through for promotion, you remove unconscious biases and make sure the people you promote reflect the wider world,” he said.

Cushman Report Shines A Light On Real Estate’s Ethnicity Pay Gap
BAME in Property's Priya Shah

Priya Shah, founder of networking organisation BAME in Property, said that the general lack of BAME professionals in real estate firms has a chilling effect on pay increases.

“I talk to a lot of BAME people who don’t have the confidence to ask for pay rises and try and achieve equal status,” she said. “You may be the only BAME person in your organisation, and don’t want to feel you are making a big deal or be seen to complain.” 

She said that while the lack of BAME professionals in senior positions is a major factor in creating an ethnicity pay gap, the problem could not be solved simply by making hires to senior positions.   

“There has to be systemic change within a whole company, and it can’t mean just hiring BAME people to senior positions,” she said. “There has to be change from the bottom, giving people the support to grow and progress and reach the top. It has to be a change of mindset.”

ONS data shows that on average, white British workers get paid about 3.6% more than BAME and non-British white workers, but within that average there are some big disparities. Chinese workers actually get paid 31% more than their white British counterparts, and Indian workers get paid on average 12% more. In contrast, Bangladeshi workers get paid 20% less, while Pakistani workers are paid 17% less. This data takes into account workers across the whole UK economy, rather than comparing workers in specific sectors.