Bisnow Releases Internal Diversity Statistics, Initiatives
Bisnow has sought to bring visibility to commercial real estate’s lack of diversity and racial equity, and now the company is holding itself to the same standard, finding it also has not done enough.
For the first time, Bisnow, North America’s largest commercial real estate news and events platform, is disclosing its internal demographic data and diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives as the company seeks to follow through on its mission to inform, connect and advance the commercial real estate industry.
After the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery sent millions of people into the streets across the country to protest racism and violence against Black Americans, Bisnow launched a series of initiatives to not only bring more people of color into its ranks, but in the stories its journalists write and events the company produces.
“There is a very small group of companies that did enough for DEI prior to George Floyd. Very few companies did enough beforehand, and Bisnow’s certainly not in that category,” Bisnow CEO Will Friend said in an interview. “We’ve got to do more. If you look at the data in the company’s hiring and senior leadership, you can see that the makeup of our workforce is not diverse enough. We’re changing that. We’re committed to structural changes that drive more diverse hiring, and I’m excited about those changes.”
When Bisnow started its internal review in the fall, it brought in DEI consultants, established an internal DEI committee and formed diversity boards in markets across the country made up of industry leaders from a broad range of backgrounds. It was a recommendation of one of those boards that Bisnow publish the findings of its internal review and outline its goals for improvement, Friend said.
The company’s workforce as of March 1, 2020, was 62% male and 85% White, and 64% and 92%, respectively, at the senior leadership level, defined as directors and above in sales and events, and editors on the business’s news side. Over the following year, 48% of new hires were women and 24% were Black, indigenous or people of color, including 8% who identify as Black or African American.
The workforce as of March 1, 2021, is 59% male and 83% White, and senior leadership is 61% male and 91% White.
Again using March 1, 2020, as a benchmark, the company found its live events featured industry speakers that were 86% male and 87% White. After installing the boards, which helped consult on and recommend diverse speakers, female representation nearly doubled year-over-year, from 14% to 27%, while BIPOC representation rose from 13% to 21%.
“Bisnow hosts events where we have panels that consist of thought leaders, and identifying those thought leaders and recruiting them to speak at events is part of our business model,” Friend said. “In working with our DEI boards, we’re more efficiently able to connect with diverse executives that are not just diverse, but also thought leaders who make fantastic contributions to our events.”
Event producers can earn extra compensation if they hit quarterly diversity goals, and events are not allowed to be brought to market with all-White speaker lineups.
Bisnow’s newsroom has a long history of reporting on the racial and gender imbalances in commercial real estate, and it redoubled those efforts last year, resulting in a four-part series examining the diversity of the leadership of commercial real estate’s largest companies.
Internally, it has started tracking the gender and racial makeup of its sourcing to ensure all of its reporting has representation from a broad spectrum of experts. Reporters have been participating in a source-building initiative focused on building relationships with men and women of color at all levels of the industry.
Friend said seeing the makeup of Bisnow’s workforce and speakers crystallized his belief that the company was right to prioritize DEI efforts as a key value.
“I think it was an inflection point for me and a good reminder that DEI in the world of CRE has a long way to go, and it helped quantify just how long we have to go, both from an event perspective, from an internal hiring perspective, from an editorial coverage perspective,” he said.
Bisnow has broadened its recruiting efforts, partnered with Historically Black Colleges and Universities and industry groups and set benchmarks for levels of diversity in searching for roles in its sales and production teams. Hiring managers will be required to have candidate pools that are at least 44% women, 19% BIPOC and 10% Black.
The company’s next steps include hiring a DEI consultant who can institute unconscious bias training and bolster the company’s recruiting efforts. Bisnow also plans to establish a corporate diversity committee to consult with senior management to drive “structural internal improvements.”
One of Bisnow’s key goals in its push to further diversify the industry is to start an internship and mentoring program through its career placement subsidiary, Select Leaders, to drive BIPOC hiring in the industry. It also plans to roll out an internship program with select HBCUs in summer 2022.
The company set a goal for itself to have senior leadership to be made up of 40% women and 20% BIPOC by 2023, and 45% women and 30% BIPOC by 2025.
“While one might not be proud of not having done more, you have to admit the mistake and get moving,” Friend said. “I do think this will continue, and I do think this will be lasting change. I fear that there will not be enough, and there’s an incredibly long way to go. It’s my hope that by holding ourselves accountable, that Bisnow can play a role in leading the industry.”