Increasing Diversity in Commercial Real Estate

By Chantily Malibago

Jones Lang LaSalle

In an industry where less than 1% of its management-level workforce are people of color, Minnesota’s Commercial Real Estate Diversity Collaborative (the Diversity Collaborative) has been working diligently to spotlight this cultural diversity gap by offering academic scholarships to college students interested in the commercial real estate industry. In June, when scores of graduates throw their caps in the air to celebrate their academic achievement, the Diversity Collaborative celebrated the graduation of its first scholarship recipient, Dorcas Gyamerah.

Encouraging young leaders

Kelly Jameson, an assistant professor of finance and real estate at St. Cloud State University, saw great potential when she met Gyamerah. “Dorcas was in my property management class in 2013, where I first got to know her. In talking to Dorcas, I learned that she was a finance major but was interested in a career in real estate.” Providing mentorship and encouragement, Jameson connected Gyamerah with networking events on campus. Jameson recalls, “What really impressed me about Dorcas though, was her professionalism and ambition to reach out to and follow up with every professional she met.”

Fresh eyes for real estate

Gyamerah’s ambition and professionalism not only impressed Jameson, but also caught the attention of the Diversity Collaborative. In January 2014, the Diversity Collaborative awarded its first academic scholarship to Gyamerah.

When asked about her interest to pursue real estate academically, Gyamerah recounts, “I discovered that there was so much more to real estate than what I thought and that the industry was really recovering from the 2008 crisis. I started seeing buildings, cities and my whole surroundings differently. I realized how much was involved in deciding where to build a building, acquire one or dispose of it. Those buildings were not just concrete structures, but were managed and kept in good shape to increase their value and keep them in the market. They were “living” places—dynamic work and thought were put in them.”

Gyamerah’s insight and perspective on real estate as a living, dynamic environment reflects some of her deeper passion in real estate. Her long term career goal: to become a developer or urban planner.

More work ahead for diversity in commercial real estate

The statistics for minority populations in commercial real estate are harrowing. A study published in The Commercial Real Estate Diversity Report in its August 2013 edition, revealed that white males continue to dominate every job category in commercial real estate except clerical. This gap will be a detriment to the industry – especially as markets continue to become more diverse and as companies across industries seek business partners who understand and reflect their community or company make up.

Much work is still needed to bridge this diversity gap. But, for the Diversity Collaborative, strident efforts to recruit volunteers, participate in industry events and promote their academic scholarships, is another step to facilitate the diversification of its local commercial real estate industry.

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