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Amazon Makes Record Donation To Project REAP In Push To Diversify Talent Pipeline

Amazon's London Kemp Boykin, a Project REAP board member, Google's Marcella Barrière and CohnReznick's Risa Lavine onstage at Bisnow's inaugural Rise Initiative Honoree event.

Amazon, arguably the most influential company in the commercial real estate industry, has signed on to back CRE training group Project REAP as corporate America faces ongoing pressure to diversify its talent pool.

“Amazon understands the need to hire, promote, and foster talent from diverse backgrounds as part of the company’s mission to be Earth’s best employer,” London Kemp Boykin, director of global portfolio strategy and transactions at Amazon, said in a statement. “We look forward to working with Project REAP as we continue to invest in this initiative across our commercial real estate teams, helping to cultivate the future leaders of our industry and this organization.”

Kemp Boykin is a graduate and board member of Project REAP, which stands for Real Estate Associate Program, which aims to foster multicultural talent for jobs in commercial real estate. This is the first time Amazon has sponsored Project REAP, a 24-year-old organization that aims to promote diversity, equity and inclusion in commercial real estate.

Project REAP Executive Director Mannika Bowman told Bisnow that Kemp Boykin, who joined the e-commerce giant in July 2020 from Netflix, according to her LinkedIn, was a key player in formalizing the partnership. Amazon is providing what the organization calls an Executive Diamond sponsorship, which requires funding of $100K or more.

The money will be used to support Project REAP's academy, which is 10 weeks of training. Nine Amazon employees will be placed in the program. Amazon will join the training and provide mentorship as part of the sponsorship. A Project REAP spokesperson said Amazon's donation was at a record level, and it bolster the nonprofit's presence in Nashville and Seattle.

REAP alumni include Natalie Hooper, Nike’s director of real estate, and TIAA associate general counsel Jillian Joseph.

Commercial real estate is still largely dominated by White men, particularly at its upper levels. In November 2020, a Bisnow analysis found that at 67 of the largest commercial real estate firms, there were 93 people of color working in the C-suite or highest echelon of management. At the end of 2021, that number had grown to 104, or 12.9% of all C-suite roles held. In 2020, 14% of those companies’ public board of director seats were filled by people of color. That number increased to 16.5% by 2021.

“We wouldn't be here if there weren't issues still to be solved with positioning dynamic talent of color to be able to enter the field of commercial real estate. … We've all had to deeply reflect regarding our talent pipelines, particularly in the wake of everything that has happened in the context of the past two years,” Bowman said.

“Quite frankly, I hope one day I don't have to do this job, because I hope that one day the field will grow, people of color will be at executive-level positions and mid-career [positions], as well as be able to enter at the beginning stages of the pipeline," she added. "But we all know that those challenges are still there.”

Project REAP, which in the summer of 2020 released an urgent call to action to the upper echelons of commercial real estate firms and Fortune 500 companies regarding diversity, also counts the Urban Land Institute and JLL as top sponsors.

Related Topics: Amazon, Project REAP, London Kemp, DEI