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 Federica Pastorino, Strategy Manager, Investor & Property Technology at Charter Hall.
Federica Pastorino is passionate about diversity and inclusion, and the ways the built world impacts people’s lives and the environment.
As Strategy Manager in Charter Hall’s Investor & Property Technology team, Federica partners with customers to provide strategy and property technology advisory services to help advance outcomes from capital raising and customer experience through to ESG and operational performance. She also chairs CH Proud, which is Charter Hall’s employee resource group focused on LGBTQ+ inclusion.
Before joining Charter Hall, Federica gained experience in Strategy, Customer & Technology consulting roles across Italy, Canada, and Australia. In particular, she spent 2.5 years with Lendlease and 4 years with EY, supporting the digital transformation of organisations’ products and businesses.
What does diversity, equity, and inclusion mean to you and why are they important?
For me, creating supportive environments that prioritise diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) is incredibly important. It’s not just about building a better society, but also about creating work environments where everyone feels respected and included. I truly believe that by valuing and embracing our differences – whether it’s our backgrounds, experiences, or perspectives – we can eliminate biases and barriers that may exist, and work towards a more harmonious and inclusive world.
In my opinion, the key to achieving this is to take the time to understand the people around us – whether they’re our customers, our colleagues, or our friends. By doing this, we can tap into unique perspectives and experiences that we might otherwise miss. This not only makes our work environments more dynamic and innovative, but it also helps us to better understand and serve diverse communities and customers.
I believe that when we embrace and value our differences, we can challenge our own assumptions and biases, learn from one another, and grow both personally and professionally. This helps to create a sense of connection and shared purpose that is incredibly enriching for individuals and teams alike.
What strategies has Charter Hall implemented to ensure there’s a sense of belonging, equity, and inclusion for its employees? What tangible results have you seen come from these efforts?
As a funds management organisation, we certainly know the value of investing in both people and places. Our aim is to make a positive impact that extends beyond our own people to benefit our customers and the wider community. We do this by building strong employee-led networks in key DEI areas like gender, LGBTQ+, First Nations and age. These networks set their targets and goals aligned to external benchmarks, and are given the backing of executive sponsorship, funding and resources to meet their aspirations.
Being part of one of these networks is a great way to get a more holistic perspective on the impact of our work and grow a sense of pride and fulfillment for what we do. It also gives the opportunity to meet and network with new people who share the same passion for DEI and learn from their experiences.
I am lucky to chair CH Proud, our employee-led network dedicated to promoting LGBTQ+ rights and awareness. I’m particularly proud of the recent Sydney WorldPride 2023 campaign, which saw us light up several places across our portfolio as a visible sign of inclusion for the LGBTQ+ community. In fact, of the 45 artworks that were part of the official Sydney WorldPride Rainbow City program, an incredible four involved Charter Hall assets.
And our commitment didn’t stop there. We supported a number of events in and around the WorldPride festival in collaboration with other industry partners, including Fair Day, Midsumma, marching in the Mardi Gras parade for the very first time and participating in the march across the Sydney Harbour Bridge, while also surpassing our goal of over 10% of Charter Hall employees joining our recently launched ally network.
While supporting WorldPride was just one of our goals for this year, having employees take the lead on DEI within Charter Hall ensures our programs are meaningful and embedded throughout the organisation.
Are you seeing any specific trends around DEI in the Real Estate space?
There are several DEI trends in real estate that have emerged in recent years. I’d like to focus on four key ones.
First, there is a growing recognition of the need to increase diversity in the industry. Real estate has historically been a male-dominated industry, and there is a need to increase the representation of women and underrepresented minorities in all areas of the industry, from brokerage to property management to development. In 2016, the Property Council of Australia set a diversity target of 40:40:20 in gender representation, aiming to achieve 40% women, 40% men and 20% discretionary. This target has progressively been adopted by the Property Council’s member organisations, which include over 2,000 property developers, owners and managers.
Second, there is a greater emphasis on training and education around DEI. I see many organisations in the real estate industry investing in DEI training for their employees and leaders, to help them understand and address issues related to bias and discrimination.
Third, there is an increased focus on measuring and reporting on DEI progress. Many real estate companies are setting specific goals and targets for increasing DEI within their organisations and are tracking their progress toward these goals over time. This helps to create accountability and ensure that progress is being made. For example, at Charter Hall we are proud to participate in the Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA) and Australian Workplace Equality Index (AWEI) programs, among others.
Finally, if we focus on LGTBQ+ inclusion for a moment, I see a growing attention towards the inclusion of all gender bathroom facilities in the places our industry develops, owns and manages as a way to promote inclusivity and create a more welcoming and accommodating environment for all individuals.
How can those of us in a position of privilege better support and advocate for our underrepresented colleagues on an ongoing basis?
Privilege can manifest in many ways, and it is important to recognise that it is often a result of societal structures and systems that favour certain groups over others. These advantages are often invisible, can be taken for granted and can be difficult to recognise if you have not experienced marginalisation or discrimination.
I believe it is important to be aware of your own privilege, and to use it to support and advocate for those who may not have the same advantages. This can include keeping an open mind and taking time to educate yourself, listening to and amplifying the voices of underrepresented colleagues, and advocating for policies and practices that promote equity and inclusion.
It’s important to recognise, articulate and direct your privilege. This is where you can turn your privilege to active allyship and hold the space necessary to ensure underrepresented voices are heard and their perspectives included.
Many companies are becoming more vocal allies as DEI initiatives are more widely embraced. What impact has allyship among the corporate world had on your career?
I feel fortunate that throughout my career I have been surrounded by supportive family and friends and I have been a part of organisations with visible ally networks and leaders who themselves are allies.
Without a doubt, having large ally networks helped to raise awareness and increase visibility of issues related to diversity, and create that organisational culture that made me feel more comfortable and included in the workplace. For instance, I felt safe talking about what I really did over the weekend, without feeling the need to hide or alter details such as the gender of my partner.
I am especially grateful for the ally leaders who I’ve met in my professionally journey and who provide me with guidance, advice, and support as I am navigating my career path. I’ve been working with allies who have helped me make connections and build my professional network, identify and pursue opportunities for growth and development, and who ensured that I was given equal opportunities and recognition for my contribution.
It’s thanks to both the presence of ally networks and especially to the direct relationship with leaders who are allies that I’ve been able to continue to develop my potential in the workplace.
Whether they are small or large, are there Owners/Developers/Investors/ PropTechs/VCs you think have seen tangible results from the DEI efforts? And why?
Personally, I am particularly interested in cross-industry collaboration. I find it incredibly motivating and enriching to witness what can be accomplished when organisations from various fields within the real estate industry come together to pursue a shared objective. And what could be a more worthy goal to pursue together than the betterment of our society and environment.
When you pool together resources, knowledge, and expertise from different fields, you can create large scale initiatives and achieve new heights that may have not been possible through isolated efforts.
An example of this is a recent industry-wide collaboration between a number of Australian property organisations in celebration of Sydney WorldPride 2023. It was exciting to see Charter Hall come together with industry peers and associations to create a rainbow across six iconic buildings in the Sydney city skyline.
Illuminating these buildings together conveyed a strong message of our industry’s commitment to DEI, and the feedback we received from our partners and customers is a testament to the power of collaboration and the impact it can have.
I am proud to be a part of an industry that is committed to diversity, equity, and inclusion, and I look forward to continuing to work with others towards common goals.
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