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Diversity Talks Real Estate

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Diversity Talks Real Estate Q&A piece for deverellsmith, October 2021

With Liz Waller, Viktorija Grubesic and Andrea Carpenter
Questions by Comfort Adedayo

Diversity Talk Real Estate originally launched in 2017 under the name, Women Talk Real Estate. The platform focused on raising the visibility of female professionals, and have seen 760 invitations issued to 307 different female experts since our launch in 2017 (data date: Sept. 2021).

The brand now wants to extend the reach of the practical power of this platform to bring attention to other under-represented groups. Their focus is on female professionals and experts from ethnic minority backgrounds of all genders, but they have an open door for those individuals from other under-represented groups that wish to harness the platform.

We caught up with Co-Founder, Andrea Carpenter, following the re-brand and for a diversity and inclusion update since she joined us in 2020 for a podcast which you can listen to here.

Let’s start at the beginning and cover off the early bits of detail for those who aren’t familiar with the Talks Real Estate platform, how and why was Women Talk Real Estate launched?

Women Talk Real Estate was launched back in 2017 to help put more female professionals on stage at industry events because we realised that their voices were not being heard. Not only did they need to be part of the debate but by increasing the visibility of women at industry events, it would also challenge stereotypes and provide more female role models. The WTRE speaker platform featured profiles of female experts who wanted to speak at industry events and linked them with event organisers who were looking to do more diverse programming, using a sophisticated expertise search function.

What is Diversity Talk Real Estate? How has the platform evolved since the initial launch?

We’re pleased to report that WTRE was really successful with more than 700 female professionals joining the platform, and more than 800 invitations being extended to 306 different women. With that practical and measurable success, it just made so much sense to expand the platform to other under-represented groups. We became Diversity Talks Real Estate in September 2021 and now, as well as women, we welcome professionals of all genders from ethnic minority backgrounds, and anyone from other under-represented groups that wants to harness the power of the platform.

How can businesses and individuals get involved?

If you are from an under-represented group, for example, female or an ethnic minority professional, and are at a stage in your career when you are considering speaking at industry events on stage, please join the platform. For others, just being an ambassador for our work is a great help – encourage others to join the platform and if you are in contact with event organisers, make sure they know about us.

Businesses can get involved by promoting our training courses internally or encouraging the right people to join our speaker platform.

Businesses can also become our sponsors. We’re a non-profit that can only achieve its mission through industry support and we’re really grateful to the 13 sponsors that currently sponsor us. As a sponsor, we work alongside you to make sure we engage your team in what we do and that you are also contributing to our efforts.

What type of support do you offer speakers?

For female speakers, we offer a range of training courses such as Become an expert panellist, which really help you get stage ready. This is currently online training, but we hope to be back in the room soon. We’re also there to support on an individual level, whether to help you get your profile filled in, connect you with a mentor or to provide some encouragement and advice for any upcoming speaking opportunities.

Where do you see DTRE going in the future? What can we expect?

We want to keep our strong and growing base of female experts in the database going as well as expand the number of speakers from ethnic minority backgrounds and other under-represented groups. We’ll also be working closely with event organisers to open up opportunities for these new speakers.

Can you share specific success stories?

Andrea attended an event (pre-pandemic) where two of the four-strong panel and the moderator had previously attended the WTRE panel discussion training. They’d all met at the training course so connections and visibility in one!

The diversity & inclusion edit…

How can the industry attract a more diverse talent pool, specifically BAME candidates?

When we started WTRE, we knew that while women made up only 15% of the industry, that was at least a reasonable critical mass to begin with. Sadly, that percentage for professionals from an ethnic minority background is even lower. Therefore, it makes sense that we need to be out in schools talking about the merits of the built environment as a career choice to create that awareness among a wider group of people. Initiatives such as Pathways to Property, Changing the Face of Property and Urban Land Institute’s UrbanPlan do a great job in this respect.

How can companies ensure they are being inclusive for underrepresented groups?

It is sometimes as simple as to ask and listen to those from under-represented groups. Often small things can be changed – that wouldn’t necessarily be covered by company policies – such as team socialising not taking place out of working hours or being too alcohol-focused, that could make a difference to everyone feeling included.

In a pre-dominantly male industry, has it been challenging pushing to create a more diverse and inclusive sector?

From a gender perspective, it has been challenging at times, but it is getting better and there are so many male champions that are a huge support to the cause. When an industry has been institutionally male for so long, it’s sometimes even hard for people of any gender to recognise that. Breaking that down is often about making it better for everyone: for example, it’s not about better maternity leave but better shared parental leave.

Do you have any short- and long-term recommendations for employers investing in D&I?

We do see some companies feel self-conscious about speaking about diversity publicly when as companies they not yet diverse themselves. We believe supporting initiatives such as DTRE and others that raise awareness on an industry-level is a good first-step for all companies in real estate. We all need to start somewhere and raising awareness will lead to more practical efforts such as removing unconscious bias in recruitment processes and initiatives to bring about cultural change.

You can visit the DTRE platform here – whether you are a business, ally or form an under-represented group Andrea and the team would love to hear from you.