champions in this way,” Bilbrey says. Many have their own diver-
sity plans, and “we’ve been asked by some of our clients to share
our ideas on how to drive diversity.”
Those experiences now seem quite common. “Our clients are
changing in the same way,” Hay says, and frequently ask about
diversity initiatives. Sometimes, C&W is even asked to place some-
one from human resources on the team handling a deal.
Achieving the goals shared by both real estate professionals
and clients will probably require experimentation. Hay believes
pay systems based on commissions is one of several barriers that
keep women from pursuing real estate careers. Many see that “as
too risky.” But her company is trying different strategies, such as
paying salaries, to get women in what were commission-only jobs
through those first few years.
Bilbrey, who has been on the job for about two years, says JLL
now trains its human resources teams to recognize confirmation bias, an innate tendency to respond positively to certain
bits of information about candidates, especially if the interviewer has similar traits. These could include what college they
attended, family background or other life experiences. Left
unchecked, such bias can sabotage efforts to diversify.
JLL also created recruiting pods
that focus their attention on one
particular segment of the business.
This way, recruiters gain a deeper
understanding of the skill sets truly
needed by candidates and hire on
that basis rather than whatever
biases they may bring to the table.
The company has also adjusted
the tasks handled by some recruiters. Instead of everyone doing end-to-end recruiting, some now focus
exclusively on sourcing. That is,
building relationships with organizations, including schools, black
MBA associations, veterans’ organizations, women’s groups and
others, that helps build pipelines of highly qualified candidates.
“We’re connecting with the right people,” she adds. JLL has
seen a dramatic improvement in the efficiency of its hiring,
including more applications coming in and a 96% acceptance
rate when it offers someone a job.
Many firms now encourage the formation of women’s business groups to help build the capacity of their growing female
workforces. In the past couple of years, professionals at many
Cushman& Wakefield offices have started chapters of its
Women’s Integrated Network. Hay says the groups provide both
mentorship and professional
development and helps both
male and female professionals
explain the firm’s commitment to
advancing women in commercial
real estate. Furthermore, C&W
has set a goal that by 2021, 50% of
its recruits will be women.
JLL’s group has been around
for a while, but in the past some
voiced concerns it was too focused
on social activities. Today, however, it puts more emphasis on
fine tuning members’ business
skills, including how to present
yourself or how to set up a proper
social media page.
These approaches have gotten results. Bilbrey says 68% of the
firm’s recent new hires in key roles were either women or minor-
ities. There has also been a 7% increase in high-ranking female
officers just in her short time with JLL, and 44% of the non-
director board seats are women. Furthermore, the corporate
solutions division saw a 20% increase of new female hires year-
over-year. “Our clients see that, and it’s important to them.”
Achieving racial diversity may be a tougher task. Less than
1,000 people of color hold management positions in an industry
with more than 125,000 professionals, according to NAIOP. But
the association is, along with many other professional groups, a
partner in Project REAP, which brings in career-changing pro-
fessionals, including architects, bankers, engineers, MBAs and
lawyers, and provides a curriculum taught over several months
by top real estate figures. In a short time, it has increased the
number of minority professionals by roughly 10%.
NAIOP has begun to do its own diversity work, Bisacquino says.
The association reaches out to historically-black colleges, for
example, to help start real estate courses in their business schools.
Last summer, NAIOP Georgia partnered with NEXUS Summer
Programs to hold a two-week real estate course at Georgia State
“Historically, new hires have
waited their turn, but millennials
are very quick and ready to
assume more responsibility.”
LARRY P. HEARD