At a recent national conference in sunny Florida, we looked around at the sea of faces that surrounded us. Whether they were raptly watching the presentations or peeking down at their phones for urgent messages about their latest project, there was a surprisingly similarity to them.
Of 250 attendees, there were few women and even fewer people of color.
As a company and as an industry, we’ve been talking about the need to diversify our ranks, but looking at the deal-makers and leaders in our industry together in one room, it became clear that we need to do more. While there are characteristics and values that we want everyone on our team and in our industry to share, we need to invite a more diverse set of experiences to our tables, and then make them feel included.
It should be enough that increasing diversity is the right thing to do, but we’re in a bottom-line driven business, and new diversity and inclusion initiatives sometimes have to be justified on the balance sheet or to the board. Fortunately for everyone, diversity is a perfect example of “everyone wins.”
Diverse and inclusive companies have a competitive advantage
In 2018, McKinsey issued a report, Delivering through Diversity, that revealed that gender and ethnically diverse teams are respectively 21 percent and 33 percent more likely to have financial results above the national industry median. And a 2017 study by the Boston Consulting Group shows a clear relationship between the diversity of companies’ management teams and the revenues they get from innovative products and services.
The Urban Land Institute recently brought to light the need for diversity in our industry; among the benefits they highlighted was the diversity of ideas that comes with a diverse team. “Diverse thought also promotes creativity and innovation; a variety of experiences, perspectives, and opinions lead to organic ideas that a uniform environment could not inspire.” Scientific American contends that diversity makes us smarter; that simply working in diverse groups leads to increased innovation; not simply by avoiding the groupthink that arises in a group of people with similar backgrounds and experiences, but by shifting the mindset of each group member; making them more prepared for discussion and willing to work to reach consensus. We’ve found this to be true in our own organization; every time we hire someone new, they inspire new ideas and creative approaches.
In short, diverse companies are more successful.
What Are We Doing?
As we look forward to 2020, we’re committed to leading the change we want to see in the industry, so we can all benefit from a more diverse workforce. There are some tremendous strides being made by some of the largest companies in our industry. Especially for those working on a global basis, diversity is inherent, but as a regional company, we’ve identified ways to be leaders for businesses of our size.
In terms of gender balance, we’re off to a good start. Nearly half of our employees are women, each of whom has real influence over our culture and direction. As a small, family-owned company, we have long relied on our personal connections in recruiting new employees. One of the most important steps we can take to increase our diversity is to expand our recruiting practices. Moving forward, we’re committing to expanding our circle, to ensure that we are reaching a diverse group with our listings. We also know that diversifying our hiring is not enough; we need to foster a culture of inclusiveness that starts at the top, and respects and welcomes the diverse experiences and ideas of everyone in our company. So far, we have a pretty good track record on this front, but as we increase our diversity, we’re encouraging all of our employees to create a personal development plan.
Evidence shows that what happens in an individual company is less important than changing the industry as a whole, so we’ll start by looking for ways to support big picture changes in the industry. To that end, we are planning to help sponsor the CRE Immersion Experiences in 2020.
Locally, we will continue to support organizations that help kids. Giving a refugee child a backpack might not seem like a recruitment tool, but helping kids perform in school will lead to more teens choosing to focus on STEM, which will lead to a bigger and more diverse hiring pool in the future. We will continue to support the Aurora Public School Welcome Center to help immigrant and refugee students in our community.
It’s time to act.
Cadence is a regional, family-owned business with a close-knit team. We won’t have the impact on diversity & inclusion that large, multinational businesses can have, but we can make a difference in our company, our communities, and by supporting broader initiatives that will have an impact throughout the industry. We’re ready to do more than talk; it’s time to act.