In an industry predominantly characterized by men, particularly white men, the need for diversity and inclusion in commercial real estate has never been more evident. CREW Network  (Commercial Real Estate Women) is the leading producer of research on gender and diversity in commercial real estate, and the leading voice for women in the industry.

Given recent pushback against diversity efforts in the face of the Supreme Court’s Affirmative Action ruling in June, it is essential that organizations highlight that diversity isn’t just a moral obligation but a strategic necessity for success. I’m excited to be working with my CREW San Francisco chapter to ensure that we are collectively making progress in the area of DEI throughout the chapter.

Though the U.S. population has grown steadily more diverse, the commercial real estate (CRE) industry has not reflected this shift. The industry has historically seen below-average levels of gender and racial diversity, and while many in the industry made significant commitments to promoting diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) back in 2020, improvements have been slow. Additionally, the diversity gap has only been exacerbated further in recent years due to looming talent shortages, which have become increasingly noticeable as baby boomers steadily age out of the workforce. The bottom line is that, despite a concerted effort to bolster DEI efforts, the industry has a way to go before staffing reflects the broader U.S. workforce.

So, what can be done to foster diversity, equity, and inclusion in CRE? Well, first and foremost, the success of any effort of this type depends on the support of top leadership. Without it, any diversity-minded policies will fall short. The most successful initiatives also engage employees in the creation and implementation of DEI policies and address DEI at all levels of seniority rather than only implementing it in specific areas. This includes providing ample resources for employees from underrepresented groups to find community among their coworkers, such as mentorship programs and employee resource groups.

To make these policies stick, however, they need to be embedded into the DNA of your organization. As the recent pushback against DEI demonstrates, it is easy for an organization to claim they support diversity and inclusivity, only to distance themselves from those policies if they become unpopular with a high-level decision maker in the organization, or difficult to carry out. This, in turn, can damage the organization, as it seems insincere and untrustworthy, making it even harder to attract and retain talent. For DEI efforts to succeed, CRE firms need to make DEI a part of the fundamentals of their company culture rather than just a temporary initiative that will fizzle out in a year.

Perhaps most importantly, if we want to encourage greater diversity in the commercial real estate industry, we must embrace allyship. Allyship is fundamentally about learning to leverage one’s position within the societal hierarchy to uplift those who face more substantial obstacles, moving closer to a fair and equitable society. Of course, allyship doesn’t always come easy, as people often fail to realize the full extent of their privilege or their potential to help those around them. Yet allyship isn’t about perfection, it’s about progress. We must be willing to constantly work to better serve the needs of our diverse peers if we want to make the CRE industry more equitable and inclusive.