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.
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What does diversity, equity and inclusion mean to you and why are they important?
To me, DEI presents an opportunity to create workspaces where employees can show up as their whole selves. It has been proven over and over again that businesses that prioritize DEI are better places to work and are ultimately more profitable. Being an immigrant, women of color, and first generation college graduate that has only worked in historically straight white male industries, the growth and sustenance of my career depends on DEI. I feel fortunate that all of my previous work environments have been spaces where DEI has been prioritized.
Why would you encourage those of an underrepresented background to join the PropTech space? Any key pull factors you’d like to highlight?
If someone is thinking about going into PropTech it can be discouraging to not see a version of yourself represented in this space. It is difficult to “be” what you cannot “see” which is why I prioritize visibility in the roles I take on. Being a part of the creation of Welcome Home’s first employee resource group – Women of Welcome (WoW) allowed for a high visibility opportunity to highlight all amazing women and the work they do in our company and to connect with other women in the PropTech space. Seeking a larger community outside of your company is a great pull factor that will likely increase a person’s long term engagement with an industry.
Why is cultural diversity so important to the makeup of Welcome Homes and also have there been challenges with this along the way?
It’s never too early to start building culture. As a Series A startup, Welcome Homes started a Culture Club that has a representative from each team in the company. The club bridges our in-office and virtual employees through collaborative events and initiatives. I thought the off-the-bat inclusion of our virtual teams was so well thought out and greatly appreciated. Getting these kinds of clubs started can be a challenge but a little organization and volunteering goes a long way and sets up a space for future employees to feel welcome in.
What advice do you have for those who want to be D&I advocates and aren’t sure how to start?
Being an advocate can seem like a time consuming and daunting task. When starting Women of Welcome (WoW) we brought the idea right to our founders to get their buy-in and it didn’t take much convincing. Next we gathered all the women in the company and had a brainstorming session on what goals and initiatives we wanted to focus on and centered them around a collective mission statement – “An inclusive community empowering Women through education and advocacy.” We’re on pace to have one activity or event each month with general body meetings each quarter. If that still seems like a lot, some 1% lifts include starting a Slack channel centering around DEI, sharing a TED talk or book on the subject with your team, or simply practicing in the way you work and manage your teams.
Whether they are small or large, are there companies you think have been particularly successful at achieving DEI? And why?
I started my career as a civil engineer at Langan Engineering right at the time they had just formed Women@Langan – the company’s first employee resource group. Being a part of Women@Langan and working my way up to being a leader for the group in our NYC office is how my passion for DEI started. Now Langan has almost a dozen ERGs that range in all different kinds of commonalities and I think it’s amazing to see.
What is the one thing you believe every organization should do to advance DEI?
Acknowledge DEI at an executive level! It blows my mind when I see a company without any sort of DEI policy or employee resource groups. I can understand that the formalization of this vocabulary in professional settings can be seen as “new” ; however the concepts of DEI are well rooted in larger historical movements centered around worker’s rights, racial, and gender equality which cannot be ignored.
What do you think is the biggest misconception surrounding DEI?
DEI solutions are not one size fits all. Different companies across the industries they service and the makeup of their work force defines the necessities of what DEI solutions are required. It’s important to listen, understand, maintain open lines of communication and act.
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