Canada is known as one of the most diverse countries in the world, but many of our industries have trouble reflecting Canada’s diversity in its workforce. This has certainly been the case with commercial real estate (CRE), which has traditionally had the reputation of being composed of mostly white, able-bodied males.
In the last two years, REALPAC (the Real Property Association of Canada) has acknowledged this challenge and devised a plan to try and improve diversity and inclusion (D&I) in Canadian CRE. Along the way, we created a D&I industry group, conducted industry D&I research, and most recently hosted a D&I industry breakfast which over 235 CRE professionals attended to generate greater dialogue around the issue.
Although REALPAC is focused on improving D&I within Canadian CRE, much of what we learned and our resources are applicable to other parts of the globe. Much more still needs to be done to improve industry D&I. REALPAC has accordingly taken three steps to continue the process. We hope these tools can be useful to other organizations.
One of the first actions we took to
support industry D&I was creating a REALPAC
Panel Pledge. We noticed that many industry speaking events had panels with
only male speakers (also known as “manels”). Adhering to the REALPAC Panel Pledge requires
agreeing to speak at or participate in a professional industry forum on a panel
of two people or more, not including the Chair or moderator, only if there is
at least one woman on the panel. In addition, we encourage the inclusion of
persons from underrepresented groups (e.g. race, sexual orientation, and age,
to name a few) on the panel. We believe
that multiple, diverse points of view should be included in a meaningful way in
industry discussions, and that all event organizers, panel chairs and
moderators, and co-panelists, should create an environment in which all persons
feel welcome, included, and able to comfortably contribute to the conversation.
If someone withdraws from speaking on a panel to give the speaking opportunity
to another diverse speaker, if possible, we encourage them to suggest other potential
speakers to the event organizers.
REALPAC staff, our Board of
Directors, and many of our member and corporate partner CEOs have taken the REALPAC
Panel Pledge. We encourage others in the industry to also take the pledge to
help and improve D&I at our industry events and to send an important signal
- Indigenous Land
REALPAC, along with many other organizations, have begun including an Indigenous Land Acknowledgement at the start of their events to recognize the traditional land that the event is taking place on. Territory acknowledgment is a way that people insert an awareness of Indigenous presence and land rights in everyday life. For example, a Land Acknowledgement we used at our recent D&I industry breakfast was “we wish to acknowledge that this event is being held on the traditional territory of the Mississaugas of New Credit First Nation, the Haudenasaunee, the Huron-Wen-dat, and is home to many diverse Indigenous peoples.” Some resources that we used to help us better understand traditional territories in Canada include Native Land and Whose Land.
Of course, Land Acknowledgements vary
based on location so we encourage others to conduct their own research and seek
out contacts in their local community to help them determine an Acknowledgement
to use, if applicable and appropriate. REALPAC is also working on including an
Indigenous Land Acknowledgement on its website to acknowledge the traditional
land that our office is located on.
There are numerous D&I resources
and research that is available, but it can be challenging to sort through and
determine which are the most useful for one’s needs. To help to organize this,
REALPAC has created a D&I Clearing
House to provide different resources on topics such as accessibility, board
diversity, and LGBTQ+, to name a few. This is an evolving resource which
we will continue to grow and curate over time based on stakeholder feedback.
REALPAC also plans to complete more D&I research pieces over time which
will be added to the Clearing House.
The REALPAC Panel Pledge, Indigenous Land Acknowledgements, and the D&I Clearing House are three resources REALPAC has used to support D&I within the commercial real estate industry, as a start. Of course, there is much more work that needs to be done. One gap we have noticed is the need for more “inclusion” resources that can help people create more inclusive, welcoming, and participatory workplaces and environments for peoples of all backgrounds. REALPAC looks forward to further exploring this area and continuing to promote D&I within the industry through our own work and by working with others, such as GRESB.
This article was written by Kris Kolenc, Manager, Research & Sustainability at REALPAC