Kerry Davis is CEO fortressan end-to-end operation platform for the property management industry.
The topic of diversity, equity, and inclusion remains popular for countless industries, especially during the months that celebrate women and the LGBTQIA+ community. However, once all PR opportunities have passed, companies have been known to let these issues fade from view again.
For those businesses that dig deep into DEI, the benefits to both employees and employers are tangible, and the ROI is real. Specifically, the commercial real estate and PropTech industries should take a closer look at the value of DEI and its implementation.
according to a 2020 CREW Network Benchmark Study, women make up only 36.7% of the commercial real estate industry, a proportion that has changed little over the past 15 years. The study also noted that women continue to earn less than men, with a fixed wage gap of 10.2% in 2020, while the gender bonus gap is a staggering 55.9%. For Black, Asian and Hispanic/Latino women, the pay gap is wider and more burdensome on average.
Covering 2,930 industry professionals across all commercial real estate sectors, who are women, men, BIPOC and LGBTQIA+, the study tells the state of the industry. But research also shows that inclusivity is clearly a remedy—and even an advantage for businesses. In fact, it states that diverse companies outperform others in earnings, governance, innovation and opportunity.
At Fortress, the property management software company I founded, DEI is more than a buzzword. This is part of our mission. For example, unlike most CRE and proptech companies, our company has more women in senior leadership roles. In fact, our entire team includes diversity in multiple areas – location, perspective, experience, ethnicity, and more.
Why do we work so hard to incorporate diversity?
We know diversity is valuable to our bottom line, but that’s a topic for another day. Equally important to us is the impact of diversity on our company culture. Some companies consider DEI by only considering “docking seats” or a similar percentage, but this is a flawed approach. The end goal shouldn’t be to look good on paper. You can’t really be diverse if you focus only on stats and not on the potential of each employee sitting at the table. You have to embrace a “free-flow” culture that can only exist through a genuine commitment to finding differences, not similarities, in your employees.
One of our core values is transparency, and in order to fully embrace this, we make sure our teams have the courage to join and even change the conversation. From onboarding, all companies should urge employees to avoid tedium. You don’t want to find yourself sitting in a meeting, nodding to everything that’s been said. Find unique insights and authentic conversations—even bad ideas. Without them, we would not be challenged.
Bringing people from different backgrounds together has been the cure for stagnation. People and companies can only experience growth when they are exposed to new ideas and approaches. Intentionally recruit and bring in people who can challenge the norm – people with different backgrounds and experiences, because that’s where ideas come from. If you want to move your company forward, think more about “industry” rather than “fit to model.”
You can’t change the conversation when you’re immersed in an echo chamber. While we all want to be verified, “comfortable” usually means you ignore peripherals. Tunnel visions can be detrimental — especially for small companies looking to make their mark on the industry. Fostering a company culture where every team member is empowered and encouraged to share their voice has the potential to unlock the true value of different perspectives and experiences. In any company, employees should feel empowered to explore uncomfortable places, have bold conversations, and feel confident when they come up with innovative ideas.
Movement and growth cannot be created without diversity, and innovation cannot be found in a room of people of the same gender, ethnicity and background.McKinsey & Company, a company focused on diversity and inclusion, has released lots of reports Show that the relationship between diversity and the likelihood of financial outperformance will only strengthen over time. These reports consistently highlight the need for the industry to create a lasting culture of inclusion and promote inclusive behaviors for the benefit of all. We spend a lot of time deliberately developing a team that can continue to meet and exceed our goals. This would not have been possible without our diverse culture, and I encourage all companies to pursue this.
A renewed focus on DEI is critical not only to the industry in which we operate, but to the business world as a whole. For us, prioritizing diversity and inclusion has resulted in an extraordinary company culture that embraces transparency, innovation, communication and growth. With this intentional purpose, we can all benefit from it—both as a company and as individuals.