The European real estate industry is showing a growing commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) and putting in place strong policies and initiatives to address those issues, according to a new paper published yesterday by INREV and ULI Europe.
The paper, which focuses on DEI challenges, progress and initiatives of market participants across Europe, combines data from a joint global survey on diversity, equity and inclusion undertaken by seven leading industry associations together with Ferguson Partners, alongside additional interviews with leading DEI professionals, including senior fund managers, leading HR practitioners, dedicated DEI experts and CEOs.
The survey found that 92% of firms surveyed have formal DEI practices in place or initiatives to improve their performance on diversity, equity and inclusion. DEI efforts have been catalysed by the pandemic, which has led to a greater focus on employees and increased business interest in achieving social goals.
Companies are aware that improved DEI helps create real estate that is resilient and fit-for-purpose, as it gives business the ability to create an asset that is relevant to the people and communities who use them.
Europe is leading the way when it comes to physical disability, with 81% of European organisations addressing both visible and non-visible disabilities. Some businesses reported putting efforts into ensuring interview processes are unbiased, improving the physical office environment for neurodivergent needs and engaging with third party non-profit disability organisations.
The survey reveals also that 86% of European firms report having initiatives that address race, 71% have policies around sexual orientation, and social economic background was being addressed by 57% of European firms. Many reported that socio-economic background will take greater precedence in DEI policies going forward, as recruitment is still largely led by word of mouth and employee referrals.
When looking at solutions going forward, many firms are partnering with diverse recruitment organisations and engaging with secondary schools to encourage careers in real estate.
Addressing gender inequality is a top priority for Europe. Every European company that took part said that gender was directly targeted by its initiatives – yet only 14% of boards of directors in the region are women (Asia-Pacific 26%, 21% North America), showing that Europe is lagging behind at senior levels.
Respondents identified potential solutions as mentoring partnerships between women at different levels, analysing people metrics, introducing flexible working and prioritising childcare and introducing paternity leave policies. The survey shows that data gathering is the main challenge to DEI progress, as legal restrictions hamper the collection of demographic data in Europe.