Traditionally, real estate has been a male-dominated industry, especially in key management positions. Although various efforts have been made to develop a more inclusive environment, there is still a gap that needs filling. It’s a situation that is gaining increasing visibility—as demonstrated by the 2019 publication of the book Managing Diversity & Inclusion in the Real Estate Sector, which focuses on unlocking the potential of diversity and inclusion (D&I) in the sector.
Unpacking the question of Diversity & Inclusion in the Real Estate Industry
D&I covers a broad spectrum of topics, including gender balance, generation gap, ethnicity, disability, sexual preference, religion, and more. But with many official definitions around, it can be agreed that a diverse and inclusive environment is an environment in which everyone is part of a whole and where individuals can participate and uncover their potential.
Why diversity and inclusion matters
As recognised by the 2017 Deloitte Global Human Capital Survey, D&I matters critically to business performance, as it increases creativity and innovation within teams. In other words, D&I can bring organisational benefits that are directly linked to company performance. Organisations with inclusive cultures are twice as likely to meet or exceed financial targets and three times as likely to be high-performing. And companies are six times more likely to be innovative and agile and eight times more likely to achieve better business outcomes, as Deloitte partner Juliet Bourke found in her research.
Diversity & Inclusion In the Real Estate Industry Download the reportIndirect effects from having a diverse and inclusive workforce include a better company image and improved transparency as well as benefitting talent attraction and retention. Also, there are external pressures driving D&I practices within companies, including potential blaming and shaming of an organisation and risk mitigation.
Barriers to Diversity & Inclusion
Despite the evident potential of D&I, real estate companies are still struggling to take effective action due to the perceived barriers. Research shows that the first barrier companies have to face is complexity. D&I is complex and companies often don’t know where to start. The very broadness of the topic can obscure how to achieve a specific framework or pathway to a D&I culture that has not yet been defined.
An action-gap is observed as well, as companies fail to make D&I a priority. A strategic choice needs to be made by management to allocate resources to D&I initiatives. Only when there is a deep-rooted commitment to creating an inclusive environment, lasting change can happen. This lack of prioritisation can relate to unconscious bias. In order to “unlearn” this bias, an organisation must take a pro-active approach that is carried throughout the whole company, with concrete milestones recognised and monitored.
Taking the first steps
As the real estate sector progresses toward a more inclusive environment, how can a company get started? Of top priority is recognising that D&I requires a mindset change across stakeholders, management, and employees. Developing a vision statement that includes D&I as part of organisational goals can help achieve this. That vision should include three themes that are critical for change regardless of the field of business:
In order to put the vision to work, there are specific resources and tools needed:
As we progress…
By actively integrating the above themes into initiatives, 2020 may very well be the year D&I gains traction in the real estate industry. With its positive impact on business outcomes and talent attraction and retention, diversity and inclusion has a proven track record and it’s time real estate unlocks its potential.
Written by Christian Van Dartel & Mary Enriquez – Ramones | Deloitte Luxembourg