Since the fractious summer of 2020 some difficult DEI questions still hang over the commercial real estate industry: What is the industry doing to diversify its ranks? What companies are getting it right and which are not? Why does the industry that decides how all the modern world lives and works not reflect how the world looks — and why does that matter?
In the wake of George Floyd’s murder and the subsequent protests, the Bisnow newsroom asked those questions of the multitrillion-dollar U.S. commercial real estate industry and committed itself to a protracted effort to shine a light on racial and gender inequality at the highest ranks of the industry.
Three years later, we’re still asking these questions, and much more, in what has become our annual Bisnow DEI Data Series, an award-winning investigative project that has amassed a unique cache of data that continues to examine the diversity of the boards and executive leadership of the biggest companies in real estate.
What our newsroom has uncovered is a combination of accelerated progress and stubborn apathy, hyper-awareness and determined ignorance, a deep resolve to make a difference and an equal boldness to carry on as before — as mostly male, mostly white and continuing to foster an environment that is challenging for minorities.
As this year’s data indicates, the industry is making demonstrable progress in changing its makeup and culture, but some advocates worry that economic headwinds will stunt momentum. We take a look at an oft-forgotten, but critically important layer of real estate that could derail the industry’s diversity push: the middle management ranks. We also look at the rise of chief diversity officers and whether or not these C-suite positions are effective or just window dressing. And finally, we hosted a podcast roundtable with CRE leaders who speak candidly about DEI blowback and overload, hiring quotas and what a looming recession could mean for the path forward.
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There were small gains for women and people of color in the C-suites and boards of commercial real estate’s largest companies, but DEI advocates worry an economic downturn could stall progress.
CRE’s diversification efforts have largely focused on the upper echelons and entry-level ranks, but diversity drops off in the middle management ranks, which will hamper long-term gains and retention.
Chief diversity officers have grown in importance since the death of George Floyd but they face skepticism, uneven ability to enact real change and high turnover rates.