Tales From the Front Lines | June 29, 2020
Tales From the Front Lines | June 29, 2020
Welcome to another Monday – let’s bring a renewed energy to what we do this week.
Take time to listen,
Cindy McSherry | Executive Director | ULI Chicago
Tales From the Front Line | July 13, 2020
COLLETE ENGLISH DIXON
Executive Director, Marshall Bennett Institute of Real Estate | Roosevelt University
Read Collete’s Bio
The past six months have been unlike any other in our lifetimes and like many of you, I have recently spent a lot of time engaged in discussions about diversity, equity and inclusion, and the challenges around those issues on racial, economic and business levels. Catalyzed by the tragic events of this spring and ensuing protests, the conversations with my industry colleagues and friends have been emotional at times, occasionally angst-filled, and, for the most part, sincere. Some of the outreach has surprised me, to be honest, and the lack of response by others has been equally as surprising. That these events triggered the “sudden” awakening of some peers to the lack of broad and sustained efforts to improve the commercial real estate industry’s diversity, equity and inclusiveness has left me occasionally speechless. However, no matter how we got here, this is the time to engage in the tough conversations and for the commercial real estate industry to take actionable steps that may finally result in true and sustainable change in the world and in the commercial real estate industry.
The myriad of negative outcomes resulting from the historical dismissal and disregard of economic and social diversity, equity and inclusion that impact the everyday lives of Black and Brown people were not created quickly and will not be resolved quickly. However, just as the commercial and residential real estate industries and others had the intent, means and opportunity to create the mechanisms, programs and policies that created and contributed to many of the economic and social disparities that plague our communities today, the industry also has the resources and influence to dismantle those same systems and structures, to enable a just and equitable community and to improve its own lack of diversity, equity and inclusion.
Due to the economic and physical scale, impact and resources of the commercial real estate industry, it is uniquely positioned to be a multi-dimensional change agent in the work to address the economic and social disparities in the Black and Brown communities. Many diverse industry participants and organizations have shared their thoughts on what the CRE industry can do to address its challenges internally and externally. For today, here are a couple of foundational efforts the industry can take toward creating systemic change:
In Chicago, as elsewhere, the many Black and Brown real estate professionals and diverse real estate industry organizations have a history of utilizing their collective skills, knowledge, programs and resources to bring awareness to and to address some of the long-standing challenges in communities of color. These professionals and organizations, including Chi-AACRE, REEC, Project REAP, NOMA and diverse educational institutions like Roosevelt University/Marshall Bennett Institute of Real Estate, the City Colleges of Chicago, among others, are ready to expand their partnerships within the commercial real estate industry to effect sustainable and durable change in our communities of color.
With its breadth, scale and impact, the commercial real estate industry is uniquely positioned to take this “moment” and use it to create more than a “movement”. Together, we can create a better world, a better city and a better industry. It is time.
Senior Managing Director & Director Global Investment Research | Heitman LLC
Read Mary’s Bio
This is getting old and it’s not going the right direction. Of course I’m referring to COVID and what we’re doing about it in the US. COVID fatigue is rampant and I’m part of the stupid behavior that can accompany the desire for normalcy. A week ago, I attended a birthday party, hosted by two medical professionals (a doctor and a nurse). I was inclined to cancel when I learned how many people would be attending the party (10 people!) but was advised that all necessary precautions would be taken. When I arrived, I found maskless people sitting adjacent to one another outdoors on a patio. I should have left then. I kept my mask on and found a chair away from the table by a few feet. Dinner was served, buffet style, with a single serving utensil in each dish. I should have left then. Happy Birthday was sung by maskless people. I should have left then. You get the picture. It’s hard to change old habits.
The concept of changing old behaviors in order to fight COVID fits well with Collete’s charge to the real estate industry, our industry, to change practices that have resulted in a lack of diversity. That lack of diversity, in turn, has helped perpetuate injustices in how and where we invest, who we hire and promote, and our operating practices. Fixing this mess will take time. But we must commit to change and get started.
Tony Downs, a long-time ULI member, frequent speaker at ULI national events, and scholar of urban politics and public policy wrote about how political agendas get established. Often an event sparks public awareness. People become cognizant of an issue in a period Downs called, “alarmed discovery.” We’re there now as a nation, recognizing systemic racism and alarmed by patterns of discrimination in policing, in access to housing, in health outcomes. What typically comes next is recognition of how complex the issues are and how difficult achieving change can be. Public attention to issues tends to fall off then. We can’t let that happen. We’re part of a nation founded on the concept of freedom for all. Let’s make that true, not just a slogan. Ways to start include a review of hiring practices. My firm’s charge to the recruiter in our HR department, guided by insight from our head of Diversity and Inclusion, is that there be a candidate who would add to the firm’s diversity in every search. Our internship program – the way into this industry – is exclusively filled by diverse candidates. Both of these are small but important steps to achieving a better future.
If you have questions or want to share your thoughts, email us at chicago@uli.