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Beyond Race And Gender: How CRE Professionals Are Changing Workplace Diversity


In many industries, there are fewer women than men. It is a narrative commercial real estate professionals know all too well.

White men make up 77.6% of commercial real estate senior executives, but only 33% of the U.S. population, NAIOP reported. While the dialogue about diversity in the workplace has progressed over the last few years, the commercial real estate industry still has a long way to go. 

Commercial Real Estate Women of D.C. is doing something about it. The CREW Network was founded in 1979 to promote business relationships for women in commercial real estate. CREW DC is now working to recognize the importance of diversity in CRE and increase all types of diversity within the many CRE sectors. 

“We are thinking about how we can increase gender, racial and cultural diversity, age diversity and diversity of thought,” Citizens Bank Senior Vice President and CREW DC President Barbara Mackin said. “We are looking at this as an opportunity to make CREW DC stronger, and therefore the industry as well.”

Mackin is the leading force behind CREW DC’s new diversity task force, a team working on prioritizing diversity in the industry that includes Auja Little of Washington REIT, Carina Bedor of Colliers International, Marianne Wilson of Newmark Knight Frank and Amanda Ryland of Herman Miller.

The task force has plans to begin working with local D.C. minority organizations to enhance diversity programs. The group is on a mission to understand what companies are doing to succeed on the diversity front and how they are measuring success. The goal is to encourage these best practices across commercial real estate. 

CREW DC Diversity Task Force: Carina Bedor of Colliers International, Barb Mackin of Citizens Financial Group Inc., Auja Little of Washington REIT and Amanda Ryland of Herman Miller. Not pictured: Marianne Wilson of Newmark Knight Frank

To attract a more diverse member base, CREW DC has expanded its events and programming to include content with more unconventional, yet relevant, topics. For example, the organization recently hosted a program on how the marijuana industry is impacting commercial real estate. CREW DC will be hosting a program in June to educate members about air rights developments, led by both male and female experts. In addition to these programs on specific topics, CREW DC is also hosting several professional development programs on how professionals can advance their careers as well as expanding mentorship programs. This fall, the annual CREW DC Awards Gala will recognize industry-leading deals and projects. 

There is a strong business case for increasing diversity in the workplace. Commercial real estate firms are feeling the pressure to build a team that reflects an increasingly diverse customer base. At full-service real estate agency SVN, executives are redefining how they hire employees.

“Commercial real estate needs to better represent our changing client base to better reflect those clients in the market,” SVN President and CEO Kevin Maggiacomo said. “We need to recruit and develop leaders from 100% of the population, not just the 50% who are men. And you may have noticed that an increasing number of tenants occupying commercial real estate are women.”

The company identified several invisible barriers in the application and interview process. They found that millennial women entering the commercial real estate workforce had far fewer industry connections than millennial men. Realizing this gap, the SVN hiring team formalized the process and started reaching out to a pool of more qualified young women. 

“Diversity will make us stronger, but it will also enhance visibility in the marketplace and importance to community,” Mackin said. “We want people to know we are taking this seriously. Achieving diversity is a journey, not necessarily a destination. We will be continually working on this effort.”

This feature was produced in collaboration between Bisnow Branded Content and CREW DC. Bisnow news staff was not involved in the production of this content.