Clockwise from the top left: Walker & Dunlop’s Jason Golub, Lument’s D. Edward Greene, Capital One’s Kate Byford, JBG SMITH’s Dawnita Wilson, and Shawmut’s David Margolius

Executive vice president of New York Metro region David Margolius joined fellow leaders who are driving diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging (DEI&B) in the commercial real estate industry at Commercial Observer’s Diversity & Inclusion Forum. The discussion, An Inside Look at the CRE Industry & Analysis of Market Sector Challenges, focused on the paradigm shift needed to break the cycle in the industry’s lack of diversity and representation. The conversation emphasized the critical need for all segments of the CRE industry to align, creating as much buying power as possible to redistribute wealth to local communities and underrepresented people.

Margolius emphasized the importance of operationalizing DEI&B work, creating actionable and intentional efforts. Shawmut’s multi-prong approach includes:

  • Diversity Leadership Council – Partnering with Deloitte Human Capital and Catalyst to build awareness of unconscious bias, improve managerial, promotion, and mentorship systems, and use data to establish accountability—creating a strategic framework to advance toward its goal of workplace equity and having the strongest, most diverse representation.
  • Regional Diversity Leadership Councils – Developed specifically with inclusion and belonging in mind, bringing DEI work to an even more local level and allowing for people to have easier access to resources through established, daily interactions and relationships.
  • Sponsorship relationships – Leading the industry, Shawmut pairs high-potential, underrepresented employees with executive sponsors to facilitate the sharing of knowledge and expertise to bolster an employee’s career aspirations, with the goal of promotion to the leadership team. The first round of sponsorship relationships saw 95% retention—50% were promoted during the 18-month relationship, 30% were promoted to the senior leadership team, and 100% reported increased feelings of engagement.
  • Mentorship program – Using a third-party algorithm, Shawmut has also instituted a program that pairs mentors and mentees assessing goals and experience to scientifically make the best matches, eliminating the potential for unconscious bias during the matching process.
  • AMP (Amplifying MWLBE Partners) – Launched task forces in New York to increase outreach to Minority, Woman, and Local Business Enterprises (MWLBE), driving awareness and action, including strategies to identify new opportunities and grow existing ones.

Diversity and equity don’t work without inclusion and belonging, Margolius also pointed out, and inclusion can be the hardest to achieve. A critical step is to recognize privilege and convert it to responsibility. This will drive authentic leadership and allow for vulnerability, which opens the door for inclusive, open, and honest conversations.

The diverse experiences of each of the panelists in this journey towards DEI&B provided the audience with actionable takeaways—you can read more details on Commercial Observer here and watch the full forum and panel on Commercial Observer’s Facebook page here (An Inside Look at the CRE Industry & Analysis of Market Sector Challenges panel begins at 1:43:08).