DEI in the workplace has shifted from being a ‘nice to have’ to ‘need to have’ part of any corporate culture. In 2020, The Chartered Management Institute in London estimated that by 2025, improving diversity and inclusion could add as much as $12 trillion annually to the global economy.
Whether it be large organisations or early-stage start-ups, companies that prioritize DEI and foster an inclusive in-house culture are better positioned to attract and retain top talent and provide equitable environments where employees can thrive. Whilst there has been some progress in the built environment sector to address and adopt DEI culture, we still have a long way to go.
According to a McKinsey Classics report, companies in the top quartile for racial and ethnic diversity are 35% more likely to have higher financial returns than their industry peers. Companies in the top quartile for gender diversity are also 15% more likely to perform better financially than their peers. Diversity pays off and executives know it.
What does DEI look like?
In the recruitment industry, DEI is not just a social responsibility, but a business imperative. Recruitment businesses can play a key role in promoting DEI by ensuring that our recruitment processes are fair, transparent, and inclusive. This can involve implementing unconscious bias training, promoting diversity in the candidate pool, and ensuring equal opportunities for all candidates. Our role as recruiters gives us a platform to communicate with clients on how to make their hiring processes more diverse and inclusive, as well as advising them on how to build a continuous DEI improvement approach through the learning and development of processes and policies across the employee cycle.
An article published by SHRM mentions how recruiters will play a bigger role in DE&I, primarily because candidates will make job choices based on their assessment of a company’s visible DE&I commitment. The article provides statistics that show ‘70% of job seekers said they want to work for a company that demonstrates a commitment to diversity and inclusion’. In short, companies need to anticipate the new generation of job seekers prioritising DE&I over the ‘normal’ sort of expectations that are traditionally centered around compensation and benefit packages.
The 2020 McKinsey report ‘Diversity wins: How inclusion matters’ looks at their data from more diverse companies to identify the common thread that has strengthened the companies’ DEI efforts and in turn, helped them financially outperform their competitors:
Millie Lewis, Associate Director of Customer Success at Coyote Software; ‘Although its (PropTech) principal role as a disruptor to the industry is via the technology it provides, there is nothing to say it can’t also disrupt the industry in terms of who it employs, promotes and chooses as its leaders.’
Where does DEI sit in the Built Environment?
The Tech industry has always been male-dominated, with women still only representing about 26.7% of the workforce – a number that has actually decreased over the last two years. This low representation of women in the space can be attributed to a variety of reasons, from a lack of females in STEM education (female students account for approximately 35% of STEM students), lack of female PropTech founders (only around 10% of PropTech founders are women) and paucity of funding towards companies with female leadership (female founders get 157 times less funding than men). Unfortunately, with a male-to-female ratio of 12:1, the lack of female representation in the technology space acts as a disincentive for women to join the industry, and who can blame them? Women currently hold 41 (8.2%) of CEO positions at those S&P 500 companies, which translates to the other 91.8% of CEO positions at top firms being filled by men. This lack of gender diversity in high-ranking organisations acts as a deterrent for anyone who doesn’t fit the ‘prototype’ of leaders in the space, de-motivating marginalised groups to strive for promotions, adopt leadership roles, and generally work up the property and technology ladder.
Whilst there is a huge amount of data and research published that centers around gender inequality in the industry, this is a bittersweet phenomenon, as there is also a noticeable lack of reporting that focuses on the under-representation of other marginalised groups. For example, one of the few existing reports around the representation of ethnic minorities in the Built Environment sector provides statistics that are shockingly low. The 2020 McKinsey report shows that the representation of ethnic minorities in UK and US executive teams stood at only 13% in 2019, up from just 7% in 2014. With fewer than 2% of Fortune 500 CEOs from an Asian heritage, it is time for companies in this space to take accountability for setting and implementing diversity agenda within their organisation. How can the built environment sector expect these statistics to increase without actively challenging the existing unconscious bias in the space? Leaders need to ensure their team better mirrors the general population, which will in turn broaden the perspective and skillset their teams provide, attract more diverse talent to the business, and consequently improve employee retention, job satisfaction, and overall performance.
Without making fundamental changes to the structure and composition of companies’ DEI strategies in the built environment, we are subconsciously building bias into our future. The lack of reporting and research around the under-representation of people with disabilities, sexual orientation, religion etc. in this space is another key area that needs to be addressed early-on for these changes to be successful.
To conclude, here are some of the lead changemakers in the built environment space who are championing DEI, placing it at the forefront of their business and leading the way to a more inclusive and better future for all.
Antonia Elisa Soler Blasco | Hilti North America
Antonia Elisa Soler Blasco is the Director of Hilti Technology Office, working with Hilti’s Corporate Venture team to identify the technologies that will shape construction in the years to come. Antonia is a strong advocate of diversity, equity, and inclusion, serving as a member of the steering committee for SMACNA’s Women In Construction Group and as a Co-Founder of Women in ConTech VC. Antonia is passionate about creating opportunities and developing relationships for women driving innovation in the construction industry.
“So women in construction tech, it’s dedicated to creating opportunities and developing relationships for women driving innovation in the construction industry. We envision a construction industry where women are well networked, support each other, efforts to improve and advance in the space and otherwise.” – Antonia Elisa Soler Blasco
Maximillian Diez | Twenty Five Ventures
Maximillian Diez is Founder & CEO of Twenty Five Ventures, whose sole purpose is to create an inclusive entrepreneurial ecosystem with access to financial and knowledge-based resources where founders and investors can thrive and scale. Diez is the General Partner of the 25 Ventures Diversity Fund which invests in startups founded by Black, Latinx, Asian, LGBTQ, women and people from diverse socioeconomic backgrounds, so they can build successful tech companies that disrupt the status quo.
“DEI is a mindset, a collection of experiences that allows an individual to be more connected with the people around them. A human mandate where we are open to new perspectives and ways of operating our businesses. This requirement brings fair access to opportunities and strives to include all the stakeholders’ representation at the decision-making table.” – Maximillian Diez
Samantha Kempe | IMMO
Samantha Kempe is Co-Founder & Chief Investment Officer at IMMO Investment Technologies, Europe’s first technology-led residential real estate platform, designed to create quality portfolios of existing single-family rental (SFR) housing at speed and scale. Samantha has 16+ years of real estate experience and is a Chartered Surveyor, MRICS in Real Estate Finance and Investment. In 2010, she was fast-tracked to one of PwC’s youngest managers in their Business Recovery team before moving into private equity at The Blackstone Group.
“Our mission is all about creating a socially responsible, safe, well-managed and fair marketplace in the residential industry. We are, in effect, wearing our culture on our sleeve with our mission, as our mission reflects our values too. ‘Do the right thing’, ‘be infinite learners’, ‘clear is kind’ are some of our values and they all enable the equity we are passionate about at IMMO.” – Samantha Kempe
Julieta Moradei | Hometeam Ventures
Julieta Moradei is a Partner and Founding Member of Hometeam Ventures, a Venture Capital and Private Equity firm that invests in and scales double bottom line startups that improve the construction life cycle by reducing cost, increasing speed, and improving quality, resulting in more adequate housing globally. At Hometeam Ventures, Julieta drives dealflow and operations of the venture fund investing in early-stage start-ups bringing breakthrough technology to the world’s largest – but least innovative – industries: construction and housing. Julieta is Co-Founder of Women in ConTech VC, and is passionate about bridging the gap between architecture, engineering, and construction through collaborative design to maximize innovation for social impact.
“The moment you use vulnerability as your strength, you’ll realize how many other people feel the same way you do, and you just became the catalyst for them wanting to open up too. It can be the single most important thing you do for D&I. For those who don’t understand you because they’ve never faced the same issue, so it is more difficult for them to be empathetic, make them part of your team.” – Julieta Moradei
Catalyst; ‘Women CEOs of the S&P 500 (List)’ (3rd February 2023).
EY; Sugan Palanee; ‘How to overcome diversity inertia in the technology sector’ (22nd September 2020).
Forbes; Angelica Krystle Donati, ‘What’s The Deal With Women In PropTech?’ (14th April 2019).
LMRE; ‘Challenges for Women in PropTech, and How your Organisation can Change it’ (28Th June 2022).
McKinsey; ‘Diversity wins: How inclusion matters’ (19th May 2020).
McKinsey Classics; ‘How diversity helps companies succeed’ (February 2020).
Property Week; Millie Lewis; ‘Proptech can lead the diversity drive’ (14th July 2022).
RICS; ‘Why Diversity and Inclusion is crucial in the built environment sector’. (1st April 2020).
SHRM; Roy Maurer; ‘2021 Recruiting Trends Shaped by the Pandemic’ (1st February 2021).
STEM Women; ‘Women in STEM Statistics’ (22nd June 2022).
UKPA; Jo Tasker; ‘To Solve PropTech Gender Gap We Must Embrace Complexity’ (6th December 2022).
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