The commercial real estate industry is starting to wake up to its diversity of problems. While the CRE industry has lagged behind other industries in addressing diversity, the most recent discussion about racial inequality is helping to spark change, according to Khalif Edwards, managing director, and head of capital raising and investor relations at Cityview.
“I do think the recent discussion about racial inequality will help drive more diversity in the CRE industry,” Edwards tells GlobeSt.com. “I am fairly optimistic that the CRE industry sees this as an issue that needs to be addressed and will commit the necessary resources and time to really effectuate change.”
There isn’t necessarily a single reason while CRE is so late to the conversation, but there are clear solutions to increase diversity throughout the industry. “A good first step is to educate minorities and people of color on the opportunities within the commercial real estate industry, including brokerage, capital markets, portfolio management, etc.,” says Edwards. “Holding webinars and workshops to educate and highlight various career paths within the CRE industry is extremely important. Due to the CRE industry’s lack of diversity in senior leadership positions, many young people of color don’t have the role models and mentors, and quite frankly the network is needed to gain access to the industry.”
Mentorship is also integral to increasing diversity in the industry. Often that requires diverse leadership as well. Edwards himself has benefited from mentorship in his career. “Fifteen years ago, Troy Jenkins—a prominent black CRE executive—served as a mentor to me and helped me discover the many opportunities that the industry has to offer. In addition to having the guidance of a mentor, I have been very fortunate in my career to have worked at large real estate institutions that have provided me a multitude of opportunities and access to industry leaders,” he says. “I am committed to giving back and opening my network to the next generation.”
The industry also needs to do a better job of reaching out to youth about opportunities in this industry—which in some ways is a niche and overlooked market. “I think the earlier companies can start educating the younger generation the better,” says Edwards. “There are a lot of great organizations like SEO, Toigo, PREA and the Real Estate Executive Council (REEC), an organization I’m heavily involved with, that are actively engaging and providing opportunities and access for undergraduates and graduates. If we could find a way to go one step further and provide many of those programs to high school students, it gets them on the path that much earlier and could be a great springboard for a successful career in CRE.”
Kelsi Maree Borland
Kelsi Maree Borland is a freelance journalist and magazine writer based in Los Angeles, California. For more than 5 years, she has extensively reported on the commercial real estate industry, covering major deals across all commercial asset classes, investment strategy and capital markets trends, market commentary, economic trends, and new technologies disrupting and revolutionizing the industry. Her work appears daily on GlobeSt.com and regularly in Real Estate Forum Magazine. As a magazine writer, she covers lifestyle and travel trends. Her work has appeared in Angeleno, Los Angeles Magazine, Travel and Leisure, and more.