Kerri Davis is its CEO Fortressa comprehensive operations platform for the property management industry.
For countless industries, the topic of diversity, equality and inclusion remains fashionable, especially during months that celebrate women and the LGBTQIA+ community. However, once all PR opportunities have passed, companies notoriously let these issues fade back into the background.
For those businesses that delve into DEI, the benefits to both employees and employer are tangible and the return on investment is real. The commercial real estate and proptech industries, in particular, should take a closer look at the value of PPC and its application.
According to a CREW 2020 Network Benchmark Study, women only make up 36.7% of the commercial real estate industry, a percentage that has seen little change over the past 15 years. The study also notes that women continue to earn less than men, with a steady 10.2% wage gap and a staggering 55.9% gender bonus gap in 2020. For black, Asian, and Hispanic/Latina women , this wage gap is even wider and burdensome.
The study — which included a total of 2,930 industry professionals who identify as female, male, BIPOC and LGBTQIA+ across all commercial real estate sectors — speaks to the state of the industry. But the research also shows that inclusion is clearly the cure—and even serves as an advantage for businesses. In fact, he notes that companies that differentiate outperform others in the areas of profits, governance, innovation and opportunity.
At Fortress, a real estate management software company I founded, DEI isn’t just a buzzword. It’s part of our mission. For example, our company has more women in senior leadership positions than most CRE and proptech companies. In fact, our entire team embraces diversity in many areas – location, perspective, experience, nationality and more.
Why do we make such an effort to incorporate diversity?
We know diversity is valuable to our core, but that’s a topic for another day. What is equally important to us is the impact that diversity has on our company culture. Some companies consider DEI by considering only butt-in-place rates or similar rates, but this is a flawed approach. The end goal should not be to look good on paper. You can’t really be different if you only focus on the statistics and not the potential of each employee sitting at the table. You need to embrace a “free-flow” culture that only exists through a true commitment to finding employees for their differences, not their similarities.
One of our core values is transparency, and to fully embrace it, we make sure our team feels emboldened to join or even change the conversation. From the moment they sign up, all companies should encourage employees to avoid monotony. You don’t want to find yourself sitting in meetings nodding along to everything that is said. Look for unique insights and real dialogue—even the bad ideas. Without them we are not challenged.
Bringing people of different backgrounds together has always been the antidote to stagnation. People—and companies—can only experience growth when exposed to new ideas and methodologies. Intentionally hire and bring in people who can challenge the norm – people who have different backgrounds and experiences, because that’s where ideas start. If you want to promote your company, think more “all walks of life” than “fits the mold.”
You can’t change the conversation when you’re immersed in an echo chamber. While we all want to feel validated, being “comfortable” usually means ignoring the peripheral. Tunnel vision can be detrimental – especially for smaller companies looking to make their mark in the industry. Fostering a company culture where every team member is empowered and encouraged to share their voice has the potential to unlock the true value of diverse perspectives and experiences. In every company, employees should feel empowered to explore the uncomfortable, have bold conversations, and feel confident in bringing innovative ideas to the table.
You can’t create movement and growth without diversity, and innovation can’t be found in a room with people of all genders, ethnicities, and backgrounds. McKinsey & Company, a firm specializing in diversity and inclusion, published plenty of references showing that the relationship between diversity and the likelihood of financial outperformance has only strengthened over time. The reports consistently highlight the need for industries to create long-lasting, inclusive cultures and promote inclusive behaviors for the benefit of all. We have spent a lot of time cultivating a team that continues to meet and exceed our goals. This would not be possible without our diverse culture and is something I encourage all companies to strive for.
A renewed focus on PPC is necessary not only for the industries in which we operate but also for the business world in general. For us, making diversity and inclusion a priority has led to an amazing company culture that embraces transparency, innovation, communication and growth. With this purposeful goal, we can all reap the benefits—both as companies and as individuals.