3 Tools to Improve Industry Diversity & Inclusion

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.

  • REALPAC Panel Pledge

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 to industry.

  • Indigenous Land Acknowledgement

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.

  • D&I Clearing House

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.

Next Steps

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