Diversity, Inclusion and Commercial Real Estate Embracing a change for the better
Written by Joanie L. Zimmer, Esq.
Diversity and inclusion: they’re two words that can have an incredible positive impact on our businesses and the commercial real estate (CRE) industry as a whole, and we – as women in this industry – can lead the charge if we’re ready to take up the challenge.
Recent events have put diversity and inclusion back in the national spotlight. But what do these terms mean? Diversity and inclusion are two key factors in achieving social equality. Diversity is the “what” – it’s the makeup, the demographics. It’s gender, race/ethnicity, age and sexual orientation, just to name a few. Inclusion is the “how” – how the culture will enable diversity to thrive. They’re words that, in the past, haven’t typically come up in conversations about commercial real estate. But the times, they are a’changin.
I’m proud to say that Amrock Commercial embraces diversity and inclusion on all levels. In fact, as a member of the Rock Family of Companies, Amrock has integrated a comprehensive, targeted strategy to increase diversity and inclusion in our education programs, our internal and external communications, our relationship with law enforcement and government officials, our recruiting efforts and our leadership.
But diversity and inclusion are also key factors in achieving business quality. When a business supports diversity and inclusion, it brings together different experiences, different ideas and different points of view. It creates understanding, empathy and a knowledge of how to effectively work together. It can make a strong team stronger, and make a good product or process better.
There’s plenty of room for improvement, especially within our industry. According to a 2013 National Association for Industrial and Office Parks (NAIOP) Diversity Report, more than 75 percent of senior executive jobs within CRE nationwide were held by Caucasian men, while 1.3 percent were held by Black men. Caucasian women held 14.1 percent of the senior executive positions, and women of color less than 1 percent of these jobs.
What’s behind this lack of diversity? A 2019 report published by UrbanLand
cited that CRE is broadly viewed as a “legacy industry,” which means that family or established connections are often the determining factors for success. Without these factors or previous exposure to the industry, women and minorities are less likely to pursue a career in the field. For the few who initially choose the CRE path, the road to the top can be lonely and difficult, with few mentors and plenty of obstacles. So, they often change course toward an industry with a clearer path to advancement.
Expanding diversity will lead to better insight into the experiences of colleagues, clients and others with whom you work and interact. But more than that, diverse backgrounds and points of view lead to better business decisions and more opportunities. According to a 2015 report
from global management group McKinsey & Company, gender and ethnically diverse teams are respectively 15 percent and 35 percent more likely to perform above the national industry median. (You can find more statistics supporting the financial benefits of diversity and inclusion in reports like these
published by the National Association of Investment Companies.)
The bottom line about diversity and inclusion is really about the bottom line for a business and the industry it’s in. Diversity and inclusion can improve a company’s financial foundation, and leaders who embrace their tenets can help shape the future of their industry. That’s why this industry needs you and other strong, women who are ready to climb the path toward leadership. As you climb, clear as many obstacles as you can to make the ascent easier for those who follow. And when your reach the summit, reach out to support and mentor colleagues who’ll energize our industry with different backgrounds, ideas and experiences. Working together, we’ll make CRE stronger than ever, with better opportunities for everyone.
Joanie L. Zimmer
Vice President, National Commercial Counsel
Joanie is a multi-faceted, highly skilled attorney and real estate professional who not only understands the legal aspects of the industry, but also has the skills and drive to build a successful office and maintain a dedicated client base. She has worked in the commercial title industry in both a closing and underwriting capacity and in private practice.
Over the years, Joanie has received numerous recognitions and awards. She is active in several professional organizations including the Cleveland chapter of Commercial Real Estate Women (CREW). She is also a member of the Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Association and is a committee member for the annual Real Estate Law Institute.