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LGBT Community Draws Support From Allies In Commercial Real Estate

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It has been one year since Bisnow shined a light on the often silent LGBT community within commercial real estate, and a key metric has yet to improve. The Human Rights Campaign’s 2018 Corporate Equality Index still only gave three commercial real estate firms a perfect score for LGBT corporate policies — the same number from a year ago.

While the index didn’t budge, real estate leaders who spoke to Bisnow from firms across the country argue the industry embraces its LGBT community and that diversity is precisely what is needed to grow and develop fresh ideas within an industry that has, at times, proved resistant to change.

LGBT Community Draws Support From Allies In Commercial Real Estate

Though only JLL, CBRE and Lendlease Americas received perfect scores, companies beyond that trio are speaking up for the LGBT community, like Crow Holdings board Chairman and former CEO Harlan Crow. Last July Crow publicly decried Senate Bill 6 and House Bill 2899, measures in Texas that would have prohibited transgender people from using the bathroom of the gender they identified with.

As Pride Month winds down, Bisnow spoke to leading firms in CRE to see what they are doing to court the diversity of the LGBT community beyond the month of June, and why it is so important in the war for talent to keep an inclusionary workplace.

JLL NEW ENGLAND MARKET DIRECTOR JIM TIERNEY

LGBT Community Draws Support From Allies In Commercial Real Estate
A team from JLL attends last year’s Out & Equal Workplace Summit in Philadelphia

Bisnow: Why is it so important for the CRE industry to stand up as an ally for the LGBT community?

J.T.: While we’re in the commercial real estate business, our industry is built on relationships. Our people are essential to everything we do and if we create environments where our people can bring their whole selves to work regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity — everyone wins.

We know diverse teams secure more business, but it’s bigger than closing deals with our growing client base. It’s about supporting the diverse individuals who bring their talents to work for us daily. We are working to ensure that all of our colleagues are able to achieve their ambitions at JLL and also in the CRE industry.

Bisnow: CRE still only has three companies with perfect scores (JLL being one of them) on the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index. How can the industry-at-large improve?

J.T.: As an industry, we need to continue creating opportunities and platforms for our LGBT+ community to share their perspectives. We need to continue to listen, be open to learning and be visible in our ally support and community engagement. If CRE firms want to attract the best talent and clients, they must create environments where diversity is welcomed and celebrated. To retain diverse talent, that environment must be inclusive.

Bisnow: What are some of the practices at JLL you’re most proud of?

J.T.: Diversity and inclusion are woven into the fabric of JLL. We provide an avenue for the LGBT+ community to have a voice and visibility through our Building Pride Business Network. We continue to leverage Building Pride to help us drive critical conversations that have led to policy changes, educational awareness and our firm being more inclusive.

Our diversity team works in tandem with our learning and development team to incorporate diversity and inclusion throughout all our JLL training courses. We’ve developed ally toolkits and an inclusion series on building inclusive teams and working through biases.

Bisnow: Where do you think you still have room to improve?

J.T.: One of our focus areas continues to be ally engagement. Allies are essential to nurturing JLL’s inclusive environment. We don’t want there to be any doubt that people can bring their whole selves to work here.

Crow Holdings CEO Michael Levy

LGBT Community Draws Support From Allies In Commercial Real Estate
Crow Holdings CEO Michael Levy

Bisnow: You came from Morgan Stanley, which is identified as one of the best places to work by the HRC’s corporate equality index. CRE still only has three companies on the list. How can the industry-at-large improve?

M.L.: Diversity and inclusion lead to better ideas and decision-making. It is both self-evident and validated by extensive research. It is in the CRE industry’s best interest to pursue these objectives and we believe that it is a current priority for most companies as part of a broader goal of advancement in equality. The CRE industry is working towards advancing this objective, but challenges remain and more can be done. 

Bisnow: Crow Holdings Chairman and former CEO Harlan Crow signed onto the letter against Bill 6. Why is it so important for CRE in general to support the LGBT community?

M.L.: Signing the letter against Bill 6 was the right thing to do, period. A diverse and inclusive working environment provides all of us the opportunity to attract and retain the best talent. It is a commitment that Crow Holdings makes to its employees, partners and all of its stakeholders.  

Bisnow: What are some of the practices at Crow Holdings you’re most proud of?

M.L.: Our company is the sum total of the professionals who commit their life’s work and collective efforts on behalf of advancing the interests of our business partners. It is who we are and what we stand for. We foster and support an open environment that encourages inclusion and advancement of all of our people, irrespective of their backgrounds. We are engaged in the broader community on so many levels and always do the right thing in our business activities. That is what we are proud of.

Bisnow: Where do you think you still have room to improve?

M.L.: We strive to create an open and inclusive environment for all of our professionals. Raising awareness is an important step in ensuring this objective, but translating awareness into access for more diverse groups is equally important. As one example, our current analyst class is the most diverse group of young professionals we have ever had. We were consistently focused on this objective throughout our recruiting efforts. We are working towards an environment where our company simply recruits and develops talent fully representative of the diverse people throughout this great country. We are also working on offering more volunteer opportunities to allow employees to donate their time along with other resources to causes they support.

Bisnow: If there’s one message you think Crow Holdings should convey to the LGBT community, what is that?

M.L.: Our heritage and consistent commitment is the enduring partnership between the Crow family, our professionals and our business partners. Our shared culture remains central to everything we do and who we are. Within our meritocracy, we stand for equal access and opportunity for all people based on the self-evident belief that diversity of backgrounds, experiences and approaches will create the most effective teams and the strongest results for our partners. From this, everything follows.

CBRE Global Workplace Solutions Senior Director Holly Warnick

LGBT Community Draws Support From Allies In Commercial Real Estate
CBRE Global Workplace Solutions Senior Director and LGBTQ & Allies Employee Resource Group National Chair Holly Warnick

Bisnow: Why is it so important for the CRE industry to stand up as an ally for the LGBT community?

H.W.: As the landscape of employee demographics [continues] to evolve, it is critical for the CRE industry to continue to stand as an ally for the LGBT community. Diverse organizations have a direct impact on company success as well as the bottom line. The LGBT community pays close attention to how corporations are standing in solidarity with our community, which impacts our decisions on employment opportunities as well as where we spend our money.

Bisnow: CRE still only has three companies with perfect scores (CBRE being one of them) on the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index. How can the industry-at-large improve?

H.W.: CBRE is proud to be the first CRE firm to receive 100% on the Corporate Equality Index (CEI) and 2018 was the fifth straight year in which we received a 100% score. As a historically more traditional industry, I think it is important for the CRE industry to focus on the value of diverse organizations and to understand the impact the CEI has [on] the LGBT community. The CEI helps us to ensure that we remain at the forefront of LGBT workplace equality — when they up the bar, we rise to the challenge and hope that others in our industry will continue to follow suit.

Bisnow: What are some of the practices at CBRE you’re most proud of?

H.W.: First, CBRE has a mature and active employee resource group (ERG) model. There are monthly connects with the leaders of each ERG to share best practices and maintain connection with leadership. Our executive sponsorship is engaged and willing to act as advocates for our groups.

Second, CBRE has maintained insurance coverage for opposite- and same-sex domestic partners since 2010, and has comprehensive insurance and guidelines for transitioning employees. Our people matter to us, and so do their families.

Third, CBRE is the only CRE firm with a sponsorship-level commitment to the Out & Equal Workplace Summit, which provides educational opportunities, workshops, networking and much more to over 4,000 attendees each year as they come together to share strategies and best practices for creating workplaces which are inclusive of all sexual orientations, gender identities and gender expressions.

Bisnow: Where do you think CBRE still has room to improve?

H.W.: I think from an overall perspective we have the opportunity to improve how we engage our ally base. This is an initiative we have kicked off this year and are gaining momentum.

I would like to see more diverse and, specifically, LGBT talent in the workplace — both in leadership and production roles. We have an immense platform which allows us to bring new people, perspectives and personalities into the CRE industry to help shape the future and our culture.

Bisnow: If there’s one message you think CBRE should convey to the LGBT community, what is that?

H.W.: Our message would be consistent throughout the year. CBRE welcomes and encourages its LGBT employees to bring their full self to work every day and recognizes the value that a diverse workforce brings to our clients. CBRE has a commitment to diversity and inclusion that is not just corporate speak. We are committed to ensuring our employees are valued as the unique individuals we all are.

Lendlease Americas CEO Denis Hickey

LGBT Community Draws Support From Allies In Commercial Real Estate
Lendlease Spirit Day, an annual event where the company hands out rainbow laces on project sites as a sign of LGBT inclusivity

Bisnow: Why is it so important for the CRE industry to stand up as an ally for the LGBT community?

D.H.: Lendlease fundamentally believes in equality and diversity for all. We believe that it’s the right thing to do, not just in our industry, but in all industries. It has been proven time and time again that diverse organizations typically outperform others because, with [a] diversity of people, you get a different perspective and increased creativity in all aspects of thinking and problem-solving.

Bisnow: CRE still only has three companies with perfect scores (Lendlease being one of them) on the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index. How can the industry-at-large improve?

D.H.: We are pleased that Lendlease continues to be a leader in LGBTI inclusion within our industry. The industry-at-large is doing a lot [to move this agenda forward] and we can continue to improve by coastally challenging current perceptions and breaking down the barriers experienced by the LGBTI community in our industry.

Bisnow: What are some of the practices at Lendlease you’re most proud of?

D.H.: Our LGBTI Employee Resource Group (ERG) has been key to establishing a network of allies and identifying opportunities for Lendlease to show support for the LGBTI communities where we work.

We participate in Spirit Day every year, handing out rainbow laces on project sites as a clear sign that all are welcome and people can be themselves, without fear.

We just received our Employee Engagement survey results, [in which] 77% of our employees participated, and Diversity & Inclusion is in the Global Top Quartile benchmark, which is fantastic! So we don’t just say D&I is one of our principles, we actually live it!

 

Sasaki Chair of Landscape Architecture, Civil Engineering and Ecology Michael Grove

LGBT Community Draws Support From Allies In Commercial Real Estate
Sasaki Chair of Landscape Architecture, Civil Engineering and Ecology Michael Grove

Bisnow: Why is it so important for the CRE industry to stand up as an ally for the LGBT community?

M.G.: Historically, CRE was the domain of the straight white male. Although this isn’t necessarily still true today — more and more firms in the CRE industry are trying to diversify — it takes sustained, intentional effort to overcome the echo of the past. It’s important to remember that this is a broad industry that has an impact on every part of the country. The demographics of the nation are changing, and to remain relevant to our clients and the communities we are a part of, CRE must also evolve. With approximately 4% of Americans proudly identifying as LGBTQ, ignoring the contributions of nearly 15 million people just doesn’t make good business sense.

Bisnow: CRE still only has three companies with perfect scores on the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index, but more companies are beginning to appear during Pride Month celebrations. How can the industry-at-large improve?

M.G.: Again, this must be an intentional effort on the part of the industry. The Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index is fairly straightforward and is a very achievable benchmark addressing topics such as parity between coverage for different-sex and same-sex spouses and domestic partners and inclusionary policies for transgender employees. Implementing these policies has a limited impact on the bottom line, and more importantly, is simply the right thing to do. In addition to these protections that enshrine equality in corporate policy, it is also important to celebrate the contribution of all employees for what makes them unique. This transcends beyond just LGBTQ employees, as all employees should be embraced for their ideas and individual life experiences that add to the diversity of every company. The celebration of individuals should also come in the form of action, such as [the] active sponsorship of future LGBTQ leaders alongside other minority groups.

Bisnow: What are some of the practices at your company you’re most proud of?

M.G.: As a design firm, Sasaki very much embraces our LGBTQ community’s contributions. Our legacy is rooted in the belief that diversity is a driver of creativity and innovation. As part of Sasaki’s active commitment to diversity and building an inclusive culture, we celebrate a variety of “cultural high holidays” as opportunities to teach about and learn from a variety of cultural experiences. These range from celebrations of Lunar New Year, Diwali and, in June, Pride month. During Sasaki Pride Week, we highlight fun facts and significant figures in the LGBTQ community who made an immeasurable impact on design and society. We also host lunchtime movies about LGBTQ history and host our very own Pride Party where members of Sasaki’s LGBTQ community and allies share some of their personal anecdotes and experiences.

Bisnow: If there’s one message you think your company should convey to the LGBT community, what is that?

M.G.: As a progressive, Massachusetts-based design firm, we are very transparent about where we stand on our support of the LGBTQ community. It is probably best summed up with a quote from our founder, Hideo Sasaki, who back in the 1950s stated that “contribution is the only value … for it brings the advantage of giving more than one person’s slant to a problem and shows how differences may be harmonized by active discussion.” This is a long way of saying that we value diversity, in all of its forms. We are a firm where ideas are valued regardless of the author’s title or background — where everyone’s contribution is respected.

Related Topics: CBRE, JLL, Sasaki, Crow Holdings, LendLease