Diversity in real estate – Why inclusion is the only way to go

To have a diverse and inclusive culture in the workplace is simple common sense. Yet, looking at gender alone, only 16% of members globally of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) are women.Architecture fares slightly better. A special mention can be made to UK architectural practice Grimshaw, who sent an all-woman team to MIPIM this year, led by Kirsten Lees, their London studio’s Managing Partner. This lack of diversity in real estate is despite the sector creating and managing the cityscapes for urban communities, “and, guess what, these urban communities are diverse,” exclaimed Amanda Clack (top photo), Head of Strategic Analysis, CBRE, as she addressed the Women’s Cocktail at MIPIM 2019.

Régis Chemouny, Partner KPMG, Audit Head Real Estate & Hotels, and the moderator of the MIPIM “Inclusion Forum: Gender Diversity in Real Estate” session, said that it is “up to both men and women to take this responsibility for the future of our industry and to contribute to gender equality.”

MIPIM 2019 also saw the launch of Gend’her, a think tank launched jointly by KPMG, MIPIM, Business Immo. This followed the release earlier in the year of the KPMG study Baromètre sur la Parité dans l’Immobilier.


“Embracing diversity, instilling diversity and respecting differences”

Anne Du Manoir, Head of Human Resources, BNP Paribas Real Estate, said at the MIPIM “Inclusion Forum” session that it was about fostering a “culture within the organisation that embraces diversity, that instils diversity and that respects differences”.

Meanwhile, the RICS, under Brian Cullen, RICS Head of Future Talent, Diversity & Inclusion, is working to address the imbalance.  Their initiatives include, in the UK, the RICS Inclusive Employer Quality Mark (IEQM), to help employers in the built environment attract and retain more diverse talent – “regardless of race, faith, disability or sexuality”.

Real estate is not alone when it comes to parity of the sexes. Benoît Dupont, Co-Founder & CEO of Paris-based start-up WeMaintain, who took part in the Inclusion Forum, pointed out that only 24 women feature among the CEOs of the Fortune 500 and, in France, no CAC 40 company has ever had a female CEO.

Marissa Plouin, Housing Policy Analyst, OECD, added: “We’ve seen in our research that progress is slow, and it has been slowing.  The gender pay gap [in OECD member countries]has been on average about 15% for the last decade.”


Gender diversity makes financial and HR sense

When more than 30% of the C-Suite are women, this adds one percentage point to net margins when compared with an otherwise similar company with no female leaders, according to an international survey carried out by the Washington DC-based Peterson Institute for International Economics, and referred to during the Inclusion Forum at MIPIM 2019.

Creating a diverse and inclusive culture also attracts the “best and brightest talent into real estate”, said Clack, who is co-author of Managing Diversity & Inclusion in the Real Estate Sector, together with Judith Gabler, Acting Managing Director, RICS.

To do this, Clack said, “we have to look at all aspects of diversity and inclusion. This starts with the corporate culture, the language and the behaviour of leadership.”


How to get there –Balanced leadership’

All speakers agreed that the only way to achieve a diverse and inclusive real estate industry was for such policies to be at the core of corporate strategy.

“Balanced leadership is not just about gender or diversity. It’s about creating overall balance everywhere” – Chantal Clavier, Heidrick & Struggles

Chantal Clavier, Head of Real Estate, Europe & Africa, Heidrick & Struggles, said that ‘balanced leadership’ should be a priority for all CEOs. “Balanced leadership is not just about gender or diversity,” said Clavier. “It’s about creating overall balance everywhere.”

She reminded the guests at the Women’s Cocktail at MIPIM that Jackie VanderBrug had identified a credit gap of over US$300bn for women launching or expanding businesses.

“What does that mean?” asked Clavier. “ It means there is a huge investment opportunity.” An opportunity too often overlooked, she added.


The CEO sets the pace of change

Clack’s book, Managing Diversity & Inclusion in the Real Estate Sector, looks to the real estate CEO for leadership.  “The CEO sets the agenda and sets the pace for change. We want them to be authentic and to be walking the talk,” said Clack.

“How do we create an environment where everybody can bring themselves to work every day?” – Amanda Clack, CBRE

The focus, though, should be on the “middle layer”, says Clack.  She asked the audience: “How do we create an environment where everybody can bring themselves to work every day?”


Steps to embed gender diversity

Du Manoir of BNP Paribas Real Estate took the Inclusion Forum audience through the steps of how gender diversity is being embedded internally at Paris-headquartered BNP Paribas Real Estate:

  • Ensuring that recruitment panels are diverse.
  • Focusing on the ratio of women to men.
  • Seeing gender pay gap legislation as an opportunity rather than a constraint.
  • Holding women’s leadership programmes for three different levels of seniority.
  • Co-developing – a new programme whereby women continue to help each other and build the sense of community after taking part in a leadership programme.
  • Mentoring in order to attract and bring on the next generation of female leaders.
  • Supporting external initiatives, including the Female Architect Award and partnerships with business schools.


She emphasised the need for continuous monitoring and measuring, and continuous effort. Initiatives are not enough, she added.

The approach is going to be different for different organisations in different parts of the world, said Clack, picking up the same theme the next day at the Women’s Cocktail.


Destigmatising of childcare

The need to take away the “stigma” of childcare was talked about at the Inclusion Forum. Plouin cited OECD research that showed the positive impact of fathers taking parental leave – on their own and for several weeks – when children are young lasts 20-30 years.

“You have a whole generation of children who see that both mothers and fathers are involved in their upbringing,” she said, with regards to those who took part in the study.


Looking for diversity in startups

Around 93% of venture capital money going into startups is invested in male only co-founding teams, said Dupont of WeMaintain, whose co-founders include one woman.

“We are very careful when we hire people,” explained Dupont. “You won’t create the dynamism you get from a diverse team if you hire people who you know. It may be easier, more comfortable, but, in the long run, they’re going to compete against each other because they know exactly what the other thinks.”


Action on an individual level

Clavier gave the audience at the Women’s Cocktail four steps to take:

  1. Put yourself forward – keep asking the questions, challenge assumptions.
  2. … even without feeling ready – grab the power.
  3. Take up board roles – including as a charity trustee.
  4. Run businesses with conscience and purpose.


And for those who do not think that diversity and inclusion is for them? “I hear a lot of people saying [diversity]is for the next generation,” said Dupont. “No guys, it’s for you too!”  This is an issue where everyone has something to gain from going in the right direction.


About Author

Georgina Power is a freelance Communications Consultant and Editor. Her previous positions include: Head of Corporate Communications at McArthurGlen Group, European PR Manager at Cushman & Wakefield and a freelance journalist for EuroProperty.

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