Over the past several years, there has been an increased focus on diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) and the employee experience. To further its commitment to DEI, I was hired to serve as Chief Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Officer (CDEIO) at Cushman & Wakefield in December of 2020, stepping into one of the biggest roles of my career at a critical inflection point for the commercial real estate (CRE) industry. With more than 20 years in key management consulting and DEI positions, I felt the enormity of the moment and was thrilled to join an organization committed to building long-term change. At Cushman & Wakefield, we know it takes intentional commitment and accountability to achieve progress.
As CDEIO, I am focused on creating long-term sustainable change through a DEI strategy that addresses the systems, policies and key decision points that influence our company’s culture. We know there are DEI challenges within CRE, and we are committed to creating equitable opportunities for corporate and fee-earning professionals and diverse suppliers. For example, a 2020 study by CREW (Commercial Real Estate Women) Network estimated that the industry is made up of 36% women. And, Project REAP (The Real Estate Associate Program), whose mission is to advance DEI in CRE, credits the industry as being one of the least-diverse economic sectors. With the support of my global C-Suite colleagues, we are embedding DEI throughout the firm’s people-first culture to further DEI in our workforce, workplace and the CRE industry by focusing on our operations, our people and market impact.
To date, Cushman & Wakefield has developed supporting infrastructure by building a team of DEI professionals to address opportunities and areas of improvement at the firm. We partner closely with the People Team to embed DEI into talent lifecycle processes such as recruiting, performance management and succession planning. We are equipping every employee with educational and cultural awareness opportunities to enable them to do their part to effect change; provide improved governance and DEI data transparency; drive thought leadership and advisory to leaders and our clients; and measure our progress and impact for sustainable DEI advancement.
Another key focus is developing, nurturing and empowering our people. Cushman & Wakefield is committed to increasing representation of women and historically underrepresented groups by ensuring a diverse slate of candidates for recruiting, in addition to providing mentoring, sponsorship and support programs to employees. Our nine Employee Resource Groups offer opportunities for members to develop professionally, grow their networks and foster inclusion and belonging. The firm has made progress advancing gender parity; Cushman & Wakefield is currently an industry leader on this front: women make up 40% of our global population. In the U.S., 45% of our employees are racially and ethnically diverse. We are committed to retaining our talent, especially those that are historically underrepresented in our organization, and building on our progress.
Cushman & Wakefield is also committed to driving greater equity in the communities and markets we serve. The firm’s Supplier Diversity Program identifies opportunities to engage and partner with minority-, women-, veteran-, LGBTQ+-, and disability-certified businesses. In 2021, we spent more than $580 million with 3,100+ diverse suppliers in North America—an increase of 30% from 2020. We also engaged the University of Washington to conduct an economic impact study to help us to understand the impact of our supplier diversity spend, making us one of the first CRE companies to commission this study. The study analyzed the impact of Cushman & Wakefield’s supplier diversity spend from 2019 – 2021, totaling $1.21 billion with 4,155 diverse businesses which created a ripple effect of 12,923 new jobs and $1.79 billion in economic impact.
I’m confident in the progress we’ve made to further diversify the CRE industry over the long-term. By addressing systemic challenges, we’re creating more inclusive and equitable opportunities to benefit our people, clients, and suppliers throughout CRE. I encourage leaders to review the full ecosystem to identify areas of opportunity to drive sustainable change in their industries.