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Walker & Dunlop Partners With Rutgers University To 'Open Doors,' Diversify Talent Pool

Walker & Dunlop CEO Willy Walker at a 2018 Bisnow event.

Multifamily finance firm Walker & Dunlop is now the official corporate sponsor for Rutgers University’s Center for Real Estate.

The company said in an announcement Tuesday that its goal is to break down barriers for deserving students who may not otherwise have access to these resources and increase the talent pipeline into commercial real estate.

“Working with Rutgers allows us to lend our expertise to those who are interested in our industry and ultimately develop a new diverse talent pool,” said Irelynne Estevez-Waller, vice president of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion at Walker & Dunlop. “We want to open doors for students who otherwise may not have had this opportunity.” 

The sponsorship will also support mentorships with the industry's heavy hitters, one-on-one access with CRE professionals, paid internships and hands-on projects.

Many commercial real estate companies have said diversifying their ranks requires diversifying the talent pool they can hire from. That has turned new focus on colleges, especially Historically Black Colleges and Universities, to get young people interested in the industry in college or high school, but these schools say they lack the resources to train students.  

Walker & Dunlop has made strides in increasing gender and racial diversity within its management team. The company employs 872 people across 40 offices. The mortgage finance firm, which was the top Fannie Mae lender in the country last year, is traded on the New York Stock Exchange and has a market capitalization of nearly $1.2B.

The Bethesda, Maryland-based company set a goal to increase the percentage of women in its top 20% earners bracket from 7% to 15% and the rate of minorities in its top earners from 4% to 15% by 2025, as Walker & Dunlop CEO Willy Walker announced during Bisnow's Pathways to Inclusion in Real Estate webinar in June 2020.

Walker said 66% of the firm’s employees are men and 34% are women, while 68% are White and 32% are people of color. The numbers become more disparate through the managerial ladder, Walker said: 71% of management is male and 29% is female, and 90% is White. 

Last year, Bisnow analysis of the executive ranks of 91 of the largest commercial real estate firms found that roughly 11% of high-level roles were filled by people of color and 23.5% of roles were filled by women. 

While those numbers had grown slightly from the year before, that growth was largely concentrated among publicly traded companies, which have faced more pressure from investment firms and federal regulators to take action on diversity, equity and inclusion.

Walker & Dunlop has pledged to make its management team 35% female and 20% people of color by 2025.