Welcome to ‘The DEI Digest’ with Romey Oulton, a Q&A focused on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in the Built Environment.
This Q&A series is an opportunity for our North American Consultant Romey Oulton to discuss Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in the Built Environment with lead changemakers in the space who are championing DEI. Each week we will ask burning questions, providing a platform to share career advice, discuss innovative strategies to overcome challenges, and how to lead by example.
This week we have been in touch with Catherine White, Chief Marketing Officer at Bisnow.
Bisnow is the #1 platform for the commercial real estate industry, with a mission to inform, connect and advance the CRE community to do more business. From events and news to marketing services, talent solutions and now DaaS, Bisnow reaches more than 11 million readers and hosts more than 75,000 executives at 350 events a year. Operating in over 50 local markets across the US, Canada, UK and Ireland, Bisnow drives commercial real estate forward.
What steps has your company taken to promote DEI initiatives both internally and externally?
Commercial real estate isn’t exactly known for its diverse makeup. This is an industry that needs more transparency and leadership to improve and change. We’ve supported this by using our media reach to shine a light on the work being done and hold the industry–and ourselves–to account for the promises made and progress needed.
For example, our editorial team has done some incredible reporting through our investigative DEI series covering corporate promises and policies on DEI, particularly in the wake of the murder of George Floyd in the United States. We also use data to map internal progress and goals to showcase more diverse voices amongst our onstage speakers, sources, and more.
In 2021, we launched the Rise Initiative to recognize the companies committed to improving racial diversity in CRE and are making measurable progress. Sharing meaningful strategies that inspire and can be replicated is at the heart of the Rise Initiative. We believe that by sharing this insight we can help support growth and help the industry reshape itself.
We just launched Rise in the UK and are thrilled with the response so far. Any company working in UK CRE can take part and submit here. The initiative will also bring the CRE community together at an event later this spring.
What are some tips and/or hard lessons learned throughout your experience building teams?
One of my mentors told me many years ago that whether you’re setting them for yourself or leading a team, you should be somewhat intimidated by your goals. Intimidated does not mean thinking they’re impossible or losing sleep because you’re terrified of figuring out how to hit them; rather, it means pushing beyond your comfort zone. As a leader, I strive for my teams to be stronger together than as individuals and part of that is because we push one another to be more creative, try something different, look at a new angle, and overall, to be better. One way we do that is to lay out our goals with one another so we help each other reach them–and hold each other accountable to getting them done.
When the team knows that a lot is expected of not only them, but everyone on the team (including myself), it pushes us to work harder to not let anyone down. It also sets the team up to support and collaborate with one another–and with most of my team in multiple locations working across Zoom & email–that’s huge. Together we dream big–and accomplish big things.
What do you love most about the sector that you work in?
I compare marketing to psychology, because you have to know what drives people in order to build effective marketing strategies. You have to know what your target audience reacts to, what they want, and what drives them to take action.
Commercial real estate was a new industry for me when I joined Bisnow, as my background was in financial news media and events. I’ve discovered that commercial real estate has a huge overlap with this need to understand what drives human behavior. The spaces we live, work, and play in shape our lives. The way a space functions affects how productive we are, how we interact with one another, and how we feel. It’s been incredibly rewarding to figure out what drives executives in this industry and how to best help their businesses. They also absolutely love attending events–I’ve never seen anything like it–so it’s been so incredible to see the energy and sold-out crowds for our events around the world.
Does your organization view DEI as more than just an HR initiative?
If you view DEI as an HR initiative, you’re already setting it up for failure. The same way that HR can’t change a company’s culture, a policy is only as good as one that your company lives–day in and day out. At Bisnow, we view DEI as something every single employee has to work on and contribute to. Every single hiring manager and team leader knows that it’s your responsibility to seek out diverse candidates, confront your bias, and ensure your team is a welcoming space for everyone.
As a marketer, I know my team is stronger when its diverse. We aim to speak to many audiences and having team members with different backgrounds and experiences makes our messaging and campaigns stronger and more effective. Diversity is a competitive advantage.
What does the next year hold for your company? What are your expansion plans?
2023 promises to be pretty huge for Bisnow. In just the first few weeks of January, we’ve seen demand for our events and marketing services at an all-time high. Our subscriber counts continue to grow and we’ve expanded into Dublin. We’re innovating within our core products, launching an International Life Sciences Summit and a new arm of our VIP executive retreats: Elevate.
Beyond our core products, we’re also launching a new sales enablement platform: Biscred. This product has been in the works for years and leverages our knowledge of commercial real estate with hundreds of thousands of data points to help sales teams tap into this complex industry and find prospects with ease. I’m extremely excited to be a part of the launch, as this intelligent database could truly be a gamechanger.
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