Executive vice president of occupier and investor services at Cushman & Wakefield/NorthMarq
The U.S. commercial real estate industry has struggled with diversity. Less than 1 percent of people in management-level positions are minorities, according to the Real Estate Associate Program in Washington, D.C.
This lack of diversity prompted the Minnesota chapter of NAIOP, the Commercial Real Estate Development Association to launch the Commercial Real Estate Diversity Collaborative in 2010.
Lisa Dongoske, a past NAIOP president and current board of directors member, is active with the collaborative. She says attracting more minorities to the industry simply makes good business sense.
She says one way to help break the barrier for minorities is through a pipeline program educating young people about career opportunities. The collaborative teamed up with Step-Up Achieve in Minneapolis, which places young people in paid summer internships at local companies. The collaborative is also partnering with Cristo Rey Jesuit High School, a Minneapolis college preparatory school for low-income students.
QWhy is diversity a priority?
AWe think by creating a dynamic mix of people and ideas, we're going to enrich our firms' capabilities. By increasing diversity in our industry, we're targeting a talent-rich group that's growing, and all the demographics point to that.
QEducating young people about real estate career opportunities is a first step?
AYes. Cristo Rey students recently attended MNCAR's Expo (trade show) to meet industry professionals and learn about career opportunities. We're finalizing a scholarship program for students of color. A dozen Step-Up Achieve students were placed in paid positions in local real estate firms in 2012. We have two Cristo Rey students working at Cushman & Wakefield/NorthMarq.
QWhy is it important for companies?
AThe shifts in the U.S. population continue to accelerate. We know we have more people of color than ever before. ... Getting perspective, creativity and innovation ... is going to give us the ability to compete effectively. We want a rich talent pool. ... It's necessary.
Liz Wolf is a freelance writer in Eagan. She can be reached at email@example.com.