The pandemic helped spotlight the need for diversity and inclusion in the commercial real estate industry, and companies are taking big strides forward to implement real change. Wendy Mann, CEO of CREW Network, says that companies are setting achievable goals around diversity and inclusion initiatives, starting with leadership.
“Companies are taking this very seriously, and they are taking a comprehensive approach to DEI. I have seen companies making both long-term and short-term plans, staffing up with DEI expertise and implementing targeted recruitment efforts—but I think the main factor, fundamentally, that is going to make a difference is leadership accountability,” Mann says. “There is a long-term commitment at the top to increasing diversity and inclusion.”
The call for enhanced diversity and inclusion isn’t new, but Mann notes that the current conversations are happening with intentionality, a key differentiator from the past. “Companies want to do it right,” says Mann. “They want to think about DEI holistically and set the right goals for the short-term, and then they are instilling a cultural change that comes with the training. Of course, that brings accountability for the long-term to make these strategies sustainable. That increases the real opportunity for growth and change.”
To support companies in setting and achieving diversity goals, CREW Network has launched the CRE Pledge for Action, asking CEOs to sign on to transform the industry. The pledge comes with six key components. Companies must agree to partner with CREW Network through this initiative; conduct an annual pay equity study; host senior executive sponsorships for women and other underrepresented groups; practice intentional recruiting; advance women in leadership roles; and implement accountability measures to ensure goals are being met. More than 60 companies, including Avison Young, CBRE, Locke Lord and Transwestern, have already signed the pledge.
It also calls for CEOs to make the pledge. “We require a CEO to sign the pledge because change starts at the top,” says Mann. “We feel like it is really important for the senior leadership to make this commitment. We want the head of the organization to instill change and we invite all CRE companies to sign on.”
CREW designed the pledge to allow companies to tailor benchmarks it for their organization. “We realized that we couldn’t set goals for companies. They have to set their own goals because every company is different. We want to hold companies accountable to setting their own measures for progress,” says Mann, who says that they have already seen a fervent demand to join the pledge.
Companies are at different places in their process, and Mann is confident that the industry is going to see change over time. “This is a marathon,” she says; “it is not a sprint.”