Setting the Dial on DiversiTEA and INKlusion – By Amanda Clack

‘Managing Diversity and Inclusion in Real Estate’ has been written and is published at a poignant moment in what feels like a turning tide of change of attitudes for our sector and is written for real estate and construction professionals alike – at all levels, but especially those in leadership roles.  I say this because I think the C-Suite get the agenda, and those entering the profession are pushing the fact that things need to change on diversity and inclusion if we are to attract the top talent into the sector. But we need action, not words – and that is what the book is about.

Indeed, when Sara Cameron from the ‪#SurveyingSisterhood asked me to  write a blog, I literally jumped at the chance especially given the book has just been published and comes out in time for both National Careers Week #NCW2019 and of course, International Womens Day #IWD2019.

So why this book?

The answer, because the time is now to help us change the dial on diversity and inclusion for this sector.  Ironically for a book – it really is about action not words and empowering everyone in the organisation, from the CEO and business leaders to the newest apprentice and graduate, to help drive and be the change necessary to attract, retain and develop the top talent into real estate and construction.  The style of the book is intentionally a light read, but aims to cover the essentials and gets to actions, aimed at that CEO level, quickly.

Diversity is about differences and individuality.  Inclusiveness is about creating an environment where differences are embraced and where all people feel, and are, valued.  Where they can bring their authentic selves to work every day.

The book sets the scene around what is a global challenge on the war for talent and how to get the best and brightest people into our sector.  What is apparent is that the talent pool is currently not big enough.  Many companies struggle with the agenda – large global companies need to set a vision and strategy that transcends boundaries where in some countries being gay is against the law, or in others where being transgender results in stoning and ultimately death.  SME’s want to embrace the ambition, but struggle to set the right ambitions that pack the right level of punch for change.

This change begins with all of you reading this blog, and most importantly our colleagues beyond.  All of us are leaders, whose role it is to set the vision and strategy around leadership, the organisational culture, language, and behaviour that the organisation accepts in its DNA.  What is key though in your role as a leader, is to be authentic – now is not the time to pay lip service to this, or to just jump on the bandwagon of D&I – it is truly important to genuinely approach the subject and put in place the aspiration for the organisation.

We need to start early, in schools, to get the next generation interested early in real estate and construction.  That means getting our great ambassadors – all of you – to get out there and tell stories to ignite the imagination of the young that this is a great profession.  Failure to do so will simply mean that organisations will be looking in a smaller pool of talent for the workforce they demand now and in the future.

The relevance of diversity and inclusion for real estate is plain to see – albeit writing this blog to those readers of the #SurveyingSisterhood blog is perhaps by its very nature an unrepresentative proportion of the sector as a whole (to say the least!).  Let me give an example from RICS, where from our 120,000 professionals, graduates and trainees around the world only 15% of those qualified are female – if you look to construction disciplines this falls to around 6%.  There is some good news however when you look at apprentices, graduates and trainees where I am pleased to say the number nudge up somewhat to 24%.  What is clear is that we still have a long way to go on gender diversity. 

As a result, you will not be surprised therefore that gender parity has a chapter of its own.  With females forming 50% of the working population, and with statistics like these, we have to consider how we get more women into the profession, how we create the right environments for them to flourish and how we tackle retention issues and training, particularly of middle management.  We consider aspects such as setting quotas versus targets, the implications of gender pay gap reporting (which lets face it wasn’t particularly pretty reading when these figures were reported for the sector last year for the first time), and how create the right environment in which both sexes can feel valued and able to bring themselves to work everyday.  What is clear is that inclusiveness for all makes a real difference.

Looking at the wider protected characteristics of BAME, LGBTQ, or those with disabilities the percentage falls dramatically – for BAME it is around 1.5%, and for other characteristics it is shamefully below 1%!

What this says is that the war for talent is very real, with a huge need to change to be representative of the population as a whole, of our clients in particular, and of the communities whose built environment we create. 

Tackling the war for talent came from research I was involved in with RICS in 2014, RICS Futures – Our Changing World Lets Be Ready – where the number one concern of employers was that we must tackle the war for talent to get the best and brightest people into the profession and our sector.

In considering diversity and inclusion, we need to understand the protected characteristics, which vary from country to country, but generally these refer to various groups such as the nine groups protected under the Equality Act 2010, and set out by the Equality and Human Rights Commission, as follows:

  • Age (and generational differences);
  • Disability;
  • Gender reassignment;
  • Marriage and civil partnership;
  • Pregnancy and maternity;
  • Race or ethnicity i.e. BAME – Black, Asian or Minority Ethnic
  • Religion or belief
  • Sex, and
  • Sexual orientation

As CEO, an understanding of the various types of “protected characteristics” is essential. The ability to adapt and flex these according to the global nature of your business, and the legal jurisdictions of each country require specialist HR and legal advice. 

We look in the book at the implications and benefits of having four generations in the workplace, and what creating the right workplace environment feels like.  What is key, is how you look at your talent pool differently as a result – from recruitment, to development, training, retention, engagement and promotion are all key aspects of the D&I strategy.  Reflecting on continuous improvement approaches is also important in continually driving organisational change for the better.

As leaders, your role is to set the vision and to ‘lead’ on diversity and inclusion from the perspective of this not being an issue to be solved, but moreover that it just makes business sense.  Walking the talk (which also happens to be one of my favourite Farley Katz illustrations) is absolutely fundamental in making your agenda believable by others in the organisation. 

We look at the case for change through the lens of financial, legal and market areas. What is important though, is to bring everyone with you on the journey.

The other role we all have is to be visible role models.  It became clear from an RICS survey in 2016 undertaken with YouGov that young girls in particular are motivated by seeing successful role models that they can aspire to follow.  Women in particular, with many saying the fact that the UK has a female Prime Minister in Theresa May and also, at that time, Hillary Clinton running for the White House, were both aspirational female role models and showing that women can be strong leaders.

Story telling is so powerful, especially when coupled with the incredible illustrations by Farley Katz.  I love these illustrations and they really help to land the important messages from the book – as they say, a picture really is worth a thousand words!!

In addition, we have story telling from some amazing contributors in Chapter 7. I literally had my Bruce Forsyth moment every time one of the fabulous stories from our contributors came through – as each became my new favourite.

We would like to thank each and every one of those contributors for sharing their stories and giving their message to the CEO.  For me, if you read nothing else, Chapter 7 – Perspectives, and Chapter 8 – BeTheChange you want to create, are the two ‘must reads’.  They are inspirational and action orientated.

In summary, #BeTheChange starts with writing the vision, walking the talk, tackling the agenda and setting the dial to DiversiTEA and INKlusion.  That change begins now – a time for action not words.

As we look to formally launch the book at MIPIM next week Judith Gabler, my co-author, and I truly hope it has the desired impact for change, as only together can we hope to change the dial on diversity and inclusion for this sector. 

We have donated all the royalties being given to LandAid, the real estate charity set up to tackle Youth Homelessness so, by buying the book you are truly making a difference in more ways than one.

My ask of you reading this is to Walk the Talk in your own organisations and join in on social media with #BeTheChange, to empower change in the sector. 

More importantly we ask, please pledge to buy the book for the leaders in your organisation because together we can change the dial on diversity and inclusion for real estate and construction.

Note: All Illustrations are copyright CBRE Ltd and are from Farley Katz of The New Yorker.

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