Diversity and inclusion is essential in any organisation, but even more so in real estate, where we work to create a better community and built environment for the next generation. Amanda Clack looks at how you can support diversity and inclusion in your business

Amanda Clack

Research shows that high-performing organisations focus on diversity and inclusion (D&I). In any workplace, it is important to understand and recognise the benefits of having a diverse and inclusive workforce. Embedding D&I into an organisation’s approach is integral to developing people, serving clients and playing an important leadership role in communities.

Earlier this year, I co-authored a book, Managing Diversity and Inclusion in the Real Estate Sector. The book looks at D&I in the context of the real estate and construction sectors, which are particularly lagging behind on this important issue. Of over 120,000 RICS-qualified surveyors, only 14% are female. If you look to construction disciplines, this falls to around 6%. There is some good news when you look at apprentices, graduates and trainees: the number nudges up to 24%. But we still have a long way to go. And there’s more gloom when you look at the wider protected characteristics of BAME, LGBTQ or those with disabilities, where the percentage falls dramatically to around 1% or less.

Meanwhile in the legal sector, while more women than men are now on the roll, there are still problems with career progression – according to 2017 statistics from the Solicitors Regulation Authority, women made up 59% of non-partner solicitors, but only 33% of partners.

This imbalance would be concerning in any sector. Tackling all aspects of D&I is even more critical now, as we need the best and brightest people to come in to support the huge emphasis on delivering economic growth through the built environment.

Leaders need to engender responsibility and accountability for D&I at all levels

An organisation without a focus on D&I is not reflective of the society and clients that it serves. It also has a smaller pool of talent from which to recruit. Such an organisation therefore cannot provide much-needed role models and career paths for those already in the organisation. That is worth bearing in mind, as new entrants and those seeking employment are placing increasing importance on selecting organisations with the right social values, culture and D&I focus.

Leaders need to wake up to the fact that if you want the best and brightest people working in your organisation, and want to develop the right culture, then you need to engender responsibility and accountability for D&I at all levels. This must start at the top, but you also need to provide support to middle managers, which is where D&I typically unravels.

A lack of focus on D&I is even more concerning for this sector, in which everything we do has the potential to create a better community and built environment for the next generation. It is essential that we are representative of the population as a whole, of our clients in particular, and of the communities we serve.

So how can leaders in the real estate sector support and nurture D&I? Most importantly, by being the change that you want to create in your organisation.

  • Set the vision and ‘lead’ on D&I in your organisation. Walking the talk as a leader helps set the culture and tone for the rest of the organisation. People follow the behaviours their leaders exemplify.
  • Get out into schools and tell stories to ignite the imagination of the young by showing them that the real estate sector is a great place to work.
  • Look at your recruitment, development, retention and engagement procedures for the people in your organisation, and ensure these embrace the key principles of D&I.
  • Be a visible role model for diversity in this sector. A 2016 RICS survey undertaken with YouGov showed that young girls in particular are motivated by seeing successful role models that they can aspire to follow.
  • Be authentic. Don’t just pay lip service to this, or jump on the bandwagon of D&I. Authentic leadership on this issue will help almost more than anything else in setting the organisational culture and tone.

Although leaders have a key role in supporting and role-modelling D&I, it is the responsibility of everyone in an organisation, no matter where they sit. So whatever your role, make sure you are playing your part on this important issue. You can help create a great place to work – one that is people-centric, and allows everyone to bring themselves to work every day – and thereby help ensure your organisation is attracting, developing and retaining the best people. D&I not only makes business sense, but it also makes for a great place to work.