tive officer since 1991. It was rare for someone to choose real
estate as a career “unless your father or brother owned a real
estate company. It was a ‘who do you know’ kind of business.”
The rise of REITs in the past few decades began to change
things, as these public firms needed to better reflect society.
Other forces have also started accelerating this transformation.
Thirty million baby boomers, for example, will retire in the
next 20 years. Furthermore, according to a recent study by
Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce,
the US economy by 2020 will have a shortage of five million work-ers with post-secondary degrees, and Bisacquino says that will
cause companies to widen their searches for new employees.
“CRE has a pretty weak track record on diversity,” says Michelle
Hay, global chief of human resources for Cushman & Wakefield.
But she adds, her company “is on a mission to change that.”
That mission has become the consensus at the C-Suite level.
“It’s a subject matter I have a lot of passion for,” says Larry P.
Heard, chief executive officer of the Houston-based Transwestern.
“Our workforce is getting younger and more diverse,” with both
more women and minorities signing on. “It’s a good thing in my
view” and “mirrors what’s going on with college graduates.”
And the student population’s growing diversity helps to build
a much-needed pipeline. “We have a purposeful approach to
recruiting,” says Mary Bilbrey, chief human resources officer for
JLL, Americas. “We are sourcing talent from a broader set of
companies and schools.”
“It’s happening naturally,” adds Heard. “We’re all recruiting
from the same pool of candidates. So we’re all evolving in the
But diversity can mean more than diversity of ethnicity or gen-
der. Technology has become a greater concern, and Bilbrey says
JLL has started to put more emphasis on recruiting talent from
outside the real estate world.
And it does not encourage innovation just through its recruiting process. Once on board, employees have opportunities to
distinguish themselves. For several years, the company has held
its DaVinci Awards, a contest open to all employees that have new
ideas beneficial to the industry. The company sponsors the creation of case studies, provides seed money, and even helps design
prototypes. Each year, employee teams present their new products to corporate leaders, including the chief executive officer.
Last year, one of the participants, a company engineer, developed a patented device that protects building engineers from
arcing electricity, and allows work to proceed without shutting
down a building’s electric system.
The awards help potential recruits “understand that this is an
organization that, if you have a great idea, we absolutely embrace
and encourage it,” Bilbrey says.
Many corporate leaders believe diversity brings a significant
set of rewards. JLL has found that there is a strong correlation
between winning business and using diverse teams to pitch its
services to potential clients. “Some of our clients are absolutely
As the world around them evolves, CRE firms are making
conscious efforts to not only bridge demographic and
cultural gaps, but to also attract diverse talent and better
reflect the communities in which they operate