On February 16, 2021, ULI Philadelphia’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Advisors welcomed Herman E. Bulls, Vice Chairman, Americas of JLL to lead a discussion on how to foster DEI in the workplace, specifically in real estate. Clayton Mitchell, Bulls’ mentee and friend, moderated the discussion and Q&A around best practices for not only creating an inclusive environment for minorities and women, but being intentional about cultivating diverse talent and leadership.
To Herman, there are two pandemics: COVID-19 and racism, with racism being the more enduring of the two. The United States will be a “majority-minority” country within the next 25 to 35 years, and as the country becomes more diverse, many firms, organizations, and companies will have to think strategically on how they are cultivating minority talent. The biggest impediment to this is that minorities and women are often not given the opportunity to thrive as professionals. Much of this lack of opportunity stems from the legacy of systematic discrimination, beginning from slavery and Jim Crow all the way to the present day. The real estate community in particular has played an active role in the present gap in opportunities for black and brown people through redlining, the bulldozing of minority communities for highway investment, and gentrification.
For industry leaders to mitigate this legacy of racism and discrimination and cultivate the next generation of leaders in Real Estate, Bulls offers several recommendations. First, he suggests strengthening DEI initiatives where decision making takes place at their organizations. He proposes looking at how board positions can be used to infuse diverse perspectives into a company’s daily operations. Next, he suggests companies look into how philanthropy can bolster a company’s DEI and social justice-related initiatives. Finally, he recommends companies look at their current procurement strategies to think about how they can better support women and minority owned businesses, especially for more high value-add services such as accounting, advertising, and consulting, which are likely to be more wealth-generating for the company.
To make sure diversity is imbedded within the organizational culture of a company, Bulls stresses the importance of strong leadership. Both leaders and employees will need to hold themselves accountable in their commitment to their DEI initiatives. This entails looking at current diversity within their organizations, settings goals and having clear communication around them, and tracking how their organization is meeting these goals. Bulls also discusses mentorship and sponsorship, and the difference between the two. While mentorship is important in cultivating minority talent, sponsorship involves a deep, personal investment on behalf of the sponsor in both guiding the mentee professionally but using their own connections and social capital to help their mentee navigate the real estate industry and lay the foundation for a successful career.
Finally, in creating and strengthening a culture of diversity in the workplace, Bulls stresses that companies not put the onus on minority employees in cultivating that environment. Instead, leaders should present their DEI goals and strategies to their diverse workforce, to which they can then garner feedback. Leaders must also look at their current recruitment strategies and think about how they can be more effective in recruiting and keeping diverse talent. This could involve having tailored strategies around recruiting at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU’s), and/or mandating diversity requirements for interns and new hires.
In 2021, creating and maintaining a diverse workforce should be essential. As the country becomes more diverse in the coming decades, it is important that industry leaders be intentional in setting their DEI goals and hold themselves accountable to them as we cultivate the next generation of leadership. In closing, Bulls left the audience with the following quote by poet May Angelou: “For whom much is needed much is expected”.
ULI Philadelphia would like to thank the DEI Advisors, Herman Bulls, and our sponsor, AR Spruce for making this event possible.
Contributed by Stewart Scott, Master’s of City Planning candidate at the University of Pennsylvania and ULI Philadelphia intern.
Walking the Talk on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
February 16, 2021
Walking the Talk on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion
ULI Philadelphia Seeks Member Volunteers to Advise Temple University Student Group Research on Equity in Transportation Infrastructure Investment
Student teams from Temple University exploring the impact of major transportation projects on BIPOC communities in Greater Philadelphia.