Commercial real estate gives shaft to women, minorities

Cushman among firms that have dumped diversity officer role
September 09, 2013 09:58AM

Women and minorities hold fewer than 1,000 of the commercial real estate industry’s nearly 14,000 senior executive jobs nationwide, according to new data from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Out of the 13,773 top-level positions, Hispanic men held 400, or 2.9 percent;  Asian men held 220, or 1.6 percent; and black men held 179, or 1.3 percent, the data show. The female minority categories fared even worse, holding fewer than 140 posts, or 1 percent.

A handful of commercial brokerages, such as CBRE Group and Jones Lang LaSalle, have chief diversity officers, but added the position only in the last few years. Others, such as Cushman & Wakefield, have discontinued the position, but a Cushman spokesperson told the Wall Street Journal that the decision was due to the company’s belief that “ownership of diversity is the responsibility of everyone.”

White men make up only 36.7 percent of the U.S. population but hold 77.6 percent of senior executive jobs in real estate, according to the data, compiled by Elaine Andersson in a new publication called the Commercial Real Estate Diversity Report.

“Being a minority or being a woman is a significant barrier,” Andersson told the Journal. “Being both…is a double impediment.”

The problem is exacerbated by the nature of the industry, which relies heavily on well-entrenched contacts and relationships, according to CBRE’s Eric Yarbro, a veteran African-American broker in New York City.

“As a community [we] don’t have a long legacy of friends and family members we learned the business from or who sent us to the colleges they attended,” Yarbro told the newspaper. [WSJ]  – Hiten Samtani