Industry Alliances and Models

Leading industry firms and organizations are advancing DEI. Read case studies of some of today’s top business diversity initiative models, including challenges and solutions and why their diversity programs are a priority.

If your company or organization is offering unique initiatives in diversity, please share with us by contacting Diana Tucker, vice president for membership and chapter relations.


Colliers International

Company Profile

Employees: More than 16,000 professionals

Location: Executive headquarters in Toronto, Ontario, Canada; U.S. headquarters in New York City; 140 U.S. offices; 362 international offices in 67 countries.

Business Scope: Commercial real estate firm, providing services to real estate occupiers, owners and investors. Specializing in brokerage; global corporate solutions; investment sales and capital markets; project management and workplace solutions; property and asset management; consulting; valuation and appraisal services; and customized research and thought leadership.

Contact: Keri Fraser, director of people services for North America, Colliers International; Phone: 604-694-7228

Diversity Initiative

Colliers has made diversity part of its corporate strategy in three key areas:

  1. Executive Commitment. The firm’s top leadership, namely its U.S. executive board, is one of the most diverse representations in the commercial real estate industry. To further signal the commitment of its top executives, Colliers recently asked this group, as well as the firm’s regional executives and global leadership team, to sign a pledge to support diversity (see, “Making a Pledge to Diversity”).
  2. Talent Recruitment. To cast a wide net during employee recruitment, Colliers has reached out to the country’s top business schools to introduce the industry and its opportunities to students of diverse backgrounds. Colliers also posts job openings with minority student groups.
  3. Professional Development/Advancement. To ensure that its minority employees thrive in their careers at Colliers, the company offers an in-house university to all of its employees to level the field for continuing education and advancement. Colliers encourages its minority employees to participate in minority professional organizations to spur personal career growth. The firm also has launched an online site that highlights the ways in which Colliers is different, including the lives and achievements of its minority employees.

Colliers International: Celebrating Differences

Diversity Initiative Steps:

  • Ensuring top-level commitment to diversity, starting with a diverse leadership team and asking top-level executives to sign a pledge showcasing their commitment to, and support for, an inclusive work environment.
  • Developing a proactive outreach program to the country’s top business schools and their minority student groups to introduce commercial real estate to students from diverse backgrounds. Colliers’ top executives visit campuses and give talks on careers in commercial real estate. The company also sponsors conferences of minority student groups and participates in those events. Colliers has discovered that campus diversity extends beyond race and gender, with the firm finding some of its best recruits in the areas of human resources, law and technology.
  • Creating an in-house university for all Colliers employees to foster personal career growth and continuing education. The company participates in minority professional groups, as well as in an online campaign to celebrate its minority employees.


Craig Robinson, president of Colliers U.S., says that, as an international company with 16,500 employees around the world, it’s in the company’s DNA to be sensitive and respectful to different cultures and peoples. While Colliers has had more than 100 years to foster diversity, it has really been in the last few years that the company has formally made diversity a corporate strategy.

“The language has crystalized, and we’ve gone from having an implicit strategy to having an explicit strategy,” says Robinson, adding that the company steers clear of quotas and tokenism. “If you start with the premise that you want the best talent and the best ideas and you go into it with no preconceived notion of what that talent looks like, then you will likely end up with a naturally diverse group.”

A diverse work environment also is beneficial and attractive to non-minority employees and potential employees, particularly among the millennial generation, which makes up a third of the country’s workforce, Robinson notes. “As a company, we need to be mindful and inclusive so we can attract younger generations,” he says.

Next Steps:

Although Colliers has implemented impressive programs and initiatives to spur diversity, Robinson believes its work is not done. “As a country and globally, we are on a journey when it comes to diversity,” he says. “Although we’ve come far, we still have a long way to go. The journey is about listening, learning and being receptive and open.”

Making a Pledge to Diversity

At the 2015 Colliers Americas Conference, a gathering earlier this year of 1,600 international and national employees, more than 100 attended the Diversity Luncheon. Those in senior management were spontaneously called on stage to sign Colliers’ Diversity Pledge:

We’re Driven.
We’re Passionate.
We’re Different.
We embrace an environment where people feel empowered to share their perspectives, with confidence they will be heard.
We encourage thought diversity, which sparks innovation and leads to amazing results.
We seek to learn from those different than ourselves, to leverage knowledge and expand horizons.
We offer opportunities for growth and learning, removing barriers to success.
We strive to create a workforce that reflects the entire community and broadens understanding.
Our differences make us stronger.
We are committed to accelerating success.

We are Colliers International.

Colliers International: This is the Colliers Difference

Problems & Solutions

Problem 1: lack of commitment among top executives. The Commercial Real Estate Diversity Report, using data provided by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, found that commercial real estate boards are far less diverse than other boards. Among real estate investment trusts, just 12.2 percent of board seats are occupied by women or minorities. This falls far short when compared to Fortune 100 companies, whose boards have 32.2 percent women and minorities, and Fortune 500 companies, whose boards are at 26.7 percent.

Colliers’ solution. Colliers’ board and executive teams are very diverse. In addition, its top-level executives signed a pledge to signal to the rest of the company their commitment to, and support of, diversity.

Elaine Andersson – a California real estate lawyer and publisher of The Commercial Real Estate Diversity Report (which provided the statistics for this paper) – believes having diverse individuals in leadership positions and having top executives sign a pledge are powerful public declarations. “When you’re trying to change the culture, and the company’s leadership is saying, ‘This matters to me,’ it sends a clear message,” she says.

Problem 2: poor recruitment practices. Only 36.7 percent of the country’s college-educated working age population are white men; yet, in commercial real estate, white men hold 77.6 percent of the senior executive jobs and the majority of all managerial, technical and professional jobs.

Colliers’ solution. Colliers has outreach programs at the country’s top business schools to introduce the industry and its opportunities to students of diverse backgrounds; it also posts job openings with minority student groups.

Andersson says it’s always smart for companies to seek a diverse group to apply for jobs and to interview all qualified candidates, adding that this is attractive to non-minorities as well. “Young people are looking at companies’ diversity initiatives,” she says. “A smart young person doesn’t want a job with a company doing business the way things were done 30 years ago. They’re looking at the demographics of the United States and the world economy.”

Problem 3: retention/advancement. In the commercial real estate industry as a whole, a white male mid-level manager has a 1 in 3 chance of advancing to a senior executive position, while a black female mid-level manager has a 1 in 12.6 chance. Minority males have a better chance of advancing than females of the same race or ethnicity. White women are promoted at higher rates than most minority men.

Colliers’ solution. Colliers offers an in-house university to all of its employees to level the playing field for continuing education and advancement. The company encourages its minority employees to participate in minority professional organizations to spur personal career growth. It also launched its Difference Campaign, an online site that highlights the ways in which Colliers is different, including the lives and achievements of its minority employees.

Andersson believes that educational initiatives like Colliers’ in-house university offer the key to eliminating barriers to advancement, adding that it’s also good practice to encourage membership in professional organizations. She especially likes the Difference Campaign, pointing out that it brings peer recognition. “This is not just about this person’s diversity, but how this diversity is an asset.”

Thanks to The Commercial Real Estate Diversity Report, which researched and published the statistics cited in this paper. The report’s work is used with permission.

The Colliers’ Story

Craig Robinson

Craig Robinson

In many ways, Craig Robinson, president of Colliers U.S., exemplifies the firm’s efforts to be diverse. As an undergraduate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) years ago, Robinson explained that he’d had no prior knowledge of commercial real estate. “But I did a job rotation, and people were there to guide me and mentor me and that exposed me to this industry,” he said. “I know our type of outreach at business schools works because I've seen it work myself.”

As a leader at Colliers, Robinson said he appreciates and fosters the firm’s external memberships with national and local chapters of minority professional groups, such as Commercial Real Estate Women (CREW) Network, the Real Estate Association Program (REAP), and the Real Estate Executive Council (REEC). “We have people in leadership positions and many of our employees are volunteering and actively participating in these groups,” he said. “As a company, we support our people being in these groups. We encourage them to attend meetings and conferences. This is more powerful than just sponsorships and financial donations.”

While these groups often further personal career growth, Robinson said Colliers’ in-house university, which provides continuing education to all of its employees, is even more powerful. “Our assets are our human capital, so we must develop our talent,” he said, noting that most universities do not offer real estate courses. “In the past, learning this business came down to on-the-job apprenticeships basically. There’s nothing wrong with that, but we want to help our employees grow in their careers and expose them to different aspects of the industry.”

Robinson added that he enjoys going to The Colliers Difference online site that shares photos and success stories about the work of its diverse employees. “Stories and photos resonate more and make us connect more than any corporate document about diversity ever could,” he said. “I look at it from time and time and realize, ‘I didn't know that about so-and-so.’ Yes, we are different, but we also have a lot in common. This is the power of stories.”

Perhaps one of the most meaningful experiences that Robinson has had at Colliers occurred earlier this year at a corporate luncheon. He joined many of the firm’s top executives on a stage to sign a pledge about their commitment to diversity. “It was an opportunity for the leadership of the company to physically demonstrate that it values diversity,” Robinson said. “It was real and emotional. You watch your peers sign a huge board with a mission that says we commit to doing this.”

Signing the pledge was the backdrop to the discussions at the individual tables, Robinson explained. “Everyone used that time to talk about how they could be more diverse and inclusive in their group and in the market,” he said. “It was an exciting moment, and it sends a signal to the whole company.”

Robinson is proud of Colliers’ diversity efforts but acknowledges the firm and the industry as a whole must continue the course. “We are all on the journey, and if we work collectively as an industry, we will have a bigger impact. The important part is taking those first steps,” he said.


Duke Realty

Duke Realty, Diversity

Company Profile

Employees: More than 500 associates.

Location: Corporate headquarters in Indianapolis; 20 additional regional offices in major metropolitan areas around the country.

Business Scope: On a nationwide basis, Duke Realty owns, maintains an interest in, or has under development 141.8 million rentable square feet of industrial and medical office assets in 21 major U.S. metropolitan areas. Duke Realty Corporation is publicly traded on the NYSE under the symbol DRE and is listed on the S&P MidCap 400 Index.

Contact: Denise K. Dank, chief human resources officer for Duke Realty; Phone: (317) 808-6125

Diversity and Inclusion Initiative

Here are some of the ways that Duke Realty is achieving its goals in diversity and inclusion:

  1. Diversity Council. This in-house council consists of up to 30 members, with an additional five liaison members to provide support in the areas of technology, marketing, human resources, training, and supplier diversity. Associates must apply to be on the council. Once selected, they serve two years and then remain diversity ambassadors for the rest of their career with the company. Currently, there are more than 80 diversity ambassadors at Duke Realty.

    The council sponsors a two-day retreat each year and brings in outside speakers to give presentations about diversity. The lessons from the retreat are shared at semi-annual roundtables, with council members giving an hour presentation to share what they learned and to get feedback from other associates. Throughout the year, there are bi-monthly conference calls of the entire council, as well as monthly committee meetings to discuss goals and objectives.

    [Fast Fact: Eighty-one percent of Duke Realty associates attended a diversity roundtable in 2015.]

  2. VIP (Value in People) Initiative. In the past, Duke Realty encouraged its hiring managers to have a diverse candidate slate before making a hiring decision, but now this is a requirement. To aid this process, the company's online applications ask potential associates to voluntarily share their gender and ethnicity.

  3. Supplier Diversity Program. To ensure there is diversity among its suppliers, Duke Realty has a dedicated supplier diversity manager to oversee its program. When bidding on projects, the firm reaches out to small local diverse groups and invites them to learn about the job. This is typically in a location close to the worksite and could be held in a hotel or meeting room. This allows community vendors to understand what is involved and participate in the bidding.

  4. Educating Minority Youth. Duke Realty looks for ways to introduce minority students to potential careers in commercial real estate.  One recent example is a partnership to introduce minority youth to STEM-related (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) careers, where associates of Duke Realty teach a weekly class at a local high school on the construction process. Students take construction-related field trips like a tour of a precast concrete plant and ongoing building sites to see projects come together. In school, they have access to a large lab room and can build a metal stud drywall or learn about water drainage with PVC pipes.

  5. Raising the Bar with Diversity Networking. To increase the diversity of its professional networks, Duke Realty is now requiring all 50 members of its management committee to select a diverse organization (an organization that primarily serves women and/or minorities) with which to network and commit to a two-year partnership. During that time, each associate must fulfill four levels of participation:
    1. Attend two events per year;
    2. Sponsor/endorse/speak/present at least once during those two years;
    3. At the associate’s annual review, detail the level of the involvement in this group; and
    4. Identify at least one candidate for hire.
  6. Diversity Mentoring. Duke Realty’s executive committee is comprised of 11 associates, and starting in 2016, each member of the committee is going to mentor a diverse associate. This will be by invitation only and will be extended to those associates who are deemed to have upward mobility within the company. Specifically, the mentors and mentees will be required to commit to the program for 12 months; meet monthly (with at least four of those meetings in person); complete an annual performance review; work together and complete at least one special project; and attend and participate in a diversity event together. In addition, the mentor will provide written notes to the mentee’s manager on a quarterly basis about his or her ongoing development. In turn, the mentees will be required to provide written feedback on ways to improve the program.

Planning for Success

Denise K. Dank, chief human resources officer for Duke Realty, outlined four steps for companies that want to launch or improve their own diversity and inclusion programs:

  1. Define what you want to accomplish;
  2. Network with other companies that have diversity initiatives;
  3. Line up strong executive sponsorship for your initiative; and
  4. Decide how you will measure success and have accountable goals.
Our Foundation for Business Success

Award-Winning Results

Duke Realty's commitment to diversity has not gone unnoticed. Over the years, numerous groups have recognized the company for its inclusive programs and initiatives. Here are some of them:

  • Gender 
    • 2020 Women on Boards is a non-profit organization with a national campaign to increase the percentage of women on boards of American companies to 20 percent or more by the year 2020. For the past three years, this group has deemed Duke Realty a "Winning "W" Company," a distinction it awards to companies with boards that are at least 20 percent female. Duke Realty's board is 21 percent female and 7 percent minority.
    • Pax Ellevate Global Women’s Index Fund invests in companies committed to gender diversity.  Duke Realty has been included in this fund since 2014.

  • Diversity ― In 2013, Brandon Hall Group, a human capital management research and advisory services firm, honored Duke Realty with its Gold Award of Excellence for its diversity and inclusion programs, noting that the company integrated these core values into all of its corporate practices and directed its efforts toward customers, suppliers, associates, and its local communities.

Recognition Within

While awards from outside sources are welcomed, Duke Realty also seeks to recognize its own efforts internally. In 2008, it instituted its own annual CEO Award for Diversity to honor the business units within the company that exemplify a significant commitment to diversity and inclusion though their programs and activities and achieve notable results. Each year, Duke Realty's business units submit detailed applications that outline their efforts and achievements in this area.

Duke Realty 2014-2015 CEO Award Recipients
2014-2015 CEO Award Recipients (Washington, DC)

"This not only allows us to give recognition to our business units for great results in this area, but it lets us see what everyone's doing," explained Sharon Lleva-Carter, vice president of business development, adding that this exercise also encourages the business units to start their own diversity practices and incorporate them into their everyday work.

Edward P. Mitchell, regional senior vice president for Duke Realty's Florida operations, explained that his business unit has won the CEO Award for Diversity and said the recognition demonstrates that the CEO and the board cares about diversity and that they have made it a company priority. "Everyone in the south Florida office is proud of how well our office works being as diverse as it is," he said. "Everybody recognizes that it makes us stronger."

[Fast Fact: In 2015, Duke Realty's total diversity spending was 22 percent of its total eligible spending budget for that year.]

The Duke Realty Story

At the turn of the century, most of corporate America was recovering from the Y2K computer scare, the fear that computer systems wouldn't be able to handle the conversion from 1999 to 2000. But in 2001, Duke Realty was focused on diversity.  Even though commercial real estate was not known as being diverse ― Duke Realty wanted to branch out from the industry's white male roots and be more inclusive.

As one of the early steps in this goal, Duke Realty established a Diversity Council, an internal company committee comprised of up to 30 associates who must apply (but it's open to everyone in the company) and are selected to serve a two-year term.  Once they complete their term, they remain "diversity ambassadors" for Duke Realty, said Sharon Lleva-Carter, vice president of business development, explaining that this means they continually seek ways to bring diversity and inclusion to their work practices. 

"Duke Realty has 500 associates companywide, and we now have more than 80 diversity ambassadors," Lleva-Carter said. 

[Fast Fact: Sixty-four percent of executive committee members; 35 percent of management committee members; and 17 percent of all associates are diversity ambassadors.]

Denise Dank

Denise K. Dank

This high level of commitment and participation demonstrates how long Duke Realty has been striving towards its goals, said Denise K. Dank, chief human resources officer. "In 2010, our company went through a process to define its values and brand," she said, adding that an outside consultancy was brought in to conduct focus groups among the associates but purposely left out the senior management.  "It found that our company's three core values are:  responsible; resourceful; respectful."

Dank said all three values signify that the company recognizes the value of diversity and inclusion and that these are ingrained in its culture.  "When we first started our diversity and inclusion program, there was the normal pushback in terms of people asking, `What does this have to do with business ― is this just a legality or a check-the-box thing?'" she said.  "But 15 years in, we've long since passed that threshold in terms of everyone’s engagement with the initiative."

Dank and other senior executives at Duke Realty all share the same answer when it comes to that first question:  What does this have to do with business?  Their reply is that diversity and inclusion practices are not just good, they're good for business.

Lleva-Carter pointed out that Duke Realty's two main product types are industrial and healthcare real estate.  "On the industrial side, we have a lot of overseas clients ― South Americans, Asians, international folks; on the healthcare side, there are a lot of women and minorities," she said.  "As a business partner to these two sectors, we want to be diverse ourselves."

Supplier Diversity

At Duke Realty, this commitment to diversity also extends to its suppliers and subcontractors.  "Instead of hiring nationwide vendors, we tend to go with local vendors because they bring their knowledge and expertise about things that are unique to that market," explained Gregory N. Czarnik, vice president of construction systems.  "For example, in Florida if we need a subcontractor to provide termite protection, the local suppliers know what products really work in that area.  If we're partnering with a painting contractor up North, they can tell us what brands of paint tend to crack in extreme cold."

In addition to the local knowhow, small local vendors tend to be more price competitive and are able to work faster and better than national conglomerates, Czarnik said.  "It's hard for the bigger companies to come in and find local craftsmen, but the local suppliers have their crews of experienced people and they tend to work quicker because they want to cash that check," he said.

Czarnik pointed out that many clients, particularly the more community-oriented operations ― public utilities, healthcare, and government ― actively look for firms that partner with local vendors.  "They're attitude is, `We're investing in the community ― the money is spent, but it stays in the community,'" he said.&

To find the small, local diverse contractors, Duke Realty holds outreach events to advertise upcoming projects, Czarnik said. "We'll send out invitations to a one- or two-hour program to explain the job so they understand what's involved," he explained, adding that this makes bidding day go much more smoothly.

This is an easy thing for commercial real estate firms to do and is well-received among local Latino groups, minority councils, and women's enterprise chapters, Czarnik said.  "These minority associations love getting these invitations," he said. "That's what their members pay their dues for ― to make those connections.

Dank added that some clients have diversity requirements. "So while some companies may scramble to put this together, we have ours in place so this gives us the edge when it comes to winning bids," she said.

Duke Realty's diversity efforts have won more than bids. The firm has also been honored with an impressive lineup of awards for its inclusive programs and initiatives [see Diversity and Inclusion Initiative].  Lleva-Carter said she's proud that the firm has been recognized. "These outside awards show our Millennials and young people that they work for a company that understands that we live in a world that is diverse," she said.

Dank agreed that promoting the firm's diversity efforts ― in marketing materials and on the company website ― is just as important as incorporating diversity strategies into the business practices, including making these part of annual goals and business unit reviews.

[Fast Fact: Since 2008, Duke Realty has published an annual diversity report for its associates.]

Inclusive Interviewing

Duke Realty's VIP (Value in People) initiative strives to have a diverse candidate slate for all open positions before a hiring decision is made, Dank said. "While this is a simple move, a lot of companies don't require this," she said. "Our staffing manager works with our hiring managers in terms of posting and recruiting for open positions. If a business unit doesn't have a diverse group, we discuss strategies for improving that.”

Dank admitted she was worried that this might backfire and become a check-the-box exercise. "But we've had 100 percent compliance and genuine support of the initiative by hiring managers," she said. "In our construction department, we've hired 12 people within the past year ― 50 percent of these professional jobs went to diverse candidates."

[Fast Fact: In 2001, one in 11 (nine percent) of new hires at Duke Realty were minorities; in 2015, more than one in five (21 percent) new hires were minorities.]

Educating Minority Youth

Still, an ongoing challenge for Duke Realty is finding diverse candidates in the first place, Dank said. "There is very little diversity in commercial real estate, especially in operations positions like leasing or business development or construction ― it's heavily dominated by white males," she said. Duke Realty looks for ways to bring more diversity to the industry.

One recent example is that Duke Realty partnered this past year with Arsenal Technical High School in Indianapolis. "Our construction professionals teach a class there once a week to show kids in a practical way the assortment of careers in construction," Dank explained. "It opens their eyes to the variety of potential careers in this industry."

Czarnik added that the class makeup is 75 percent African American, 25 percent Latino and 30 percent female. "We're introducing them to our industry and letting them know it's not just swinging a hammer," he said. "They can be engineers, lawyers, designers, carpenters, electricians. We try to show all the angles and tell them, `If you don't like working outside, you can work in an office.'"

So far, the students have been receptive to the class, Czarnik said, adding that it's very interactive and hands-on, which helps keeps everyone's interest. "It's not one person droning on and on," he said. "The kids really love the field trips and tours. This is our first year doing it, so it'll be interesting to see where they go. They may graduate and go on to Ivy Tech Community College [a local vocational college] or they may take apprenticeships."

Going Forward

Looking ahead in 2016, Duke Realty has a new president and chief executive officer, James B. Connor (following the retirement of Dennis Oklak), and Dank said that she is confident that he will not only carry on the company's diversity and inclusion efforts but push them forward.  "He has demonstrated over the past years his support of the company's initiatives and has been a thought leader himself on this issue," she said. "Often top leaders are supportive but not personally engaged. Our new CEO will not only be personally involved, but he will take things to a new level."

A statement from Connor confirmed this expectation: "Our goal is to continue to support all of our existing programs and initiatives, as well as expand into new areas that will continue our progress as a leading company in the areas of inclusion and diversity," he said.

Two early examples of this are evident in the company's newest diversity programs ― diversity networking and mentoring. For years, Duke Realty has networked with minority professional groups at an informal level, Dank explained. "This year, we've upped our game because our new CEO said this needs to be a more accountable program," she said, adding that this is a smart move because so many jobs come through referrals and personal connections.

Under the Diversity Networking program, the company's management committee ― which is comprised of 50 senior leaders ― will be required to partner with a minority organization and adhere to participation requirements (listed above). "The requirements are simple but impactful," Dank said, adding that the company has researched and identified groups in every city where it has an office to find groups that primarily serve women and minorities, such as INROADS, Project REAP, CREW Network, and Hispanic and African American certified public accounting groups.

The company's new mentoring program is similar in that, for years, Duke Realty has offered a mentoring program to its associates.  "In the past, we've offered mentoring to all associates, but we have now added a new diversity mentoring program," she said, explaining that this it is by invitation only.  "We identify our female and minority associates who are deemed to have upward mobility, and we tap them to be mentored by a member of our executive committee."

Alana McCann

Alana McCann

As a member of the executive committee herself, Dank will be a mentor this year to Alana McCann, a project manager in construction who has been with the company for three and a half years.  Dank said she's excited to help a younger associate maneuver through the business world and learn some of the unwritten rules, as well as help sponsor and support her ideas.  She added that she expects to learn things herself. "In any mentoring situation, the mentors learn from the mentees ― they know things we don't," she said.

For her part, McCann said was honored to be chosen as a mentee.  "It will be a great networking opportunity ― not just to work with Denise more closely but to get to know the other members of the executive committee and interact with the other mentees," she said, adding that she's also looking forward to working on the special project.  "I'm serving on the Diversity Council, so Denise and I have already decided that our special project will focus on diversity, and I welcome that opportunity to work on those initiatives."

Final Words of Advice

As impressive and successful as Duke Realty's programs are, Dank said it was not an easy sell in the beginning.  "Expect some pushback because the industry is so predominantly white male, and smaller private companies are often entrepreneurial and only concerned with closing the deal ― they don't see the value in this," she said.

Fifteen years ago, diversity and inclusion were not front and center at Duke Realty, Dank said.  "But the advantage of time is that now our associates embrace diversity and inclusion as a key part of our culture,” she said.  “In addition, our board of directors is very supportive of our diversity and inclusion initiative.”

For companies still at the beginning of this effort, Dank shared these words of wisdom, “Expect pushback and don’t be discouraged by it.  Learn from others, secure strong executive sponsorship, and involve as many employees as possible in order to cultivate widespread engagement and ownership of the initiative.”


Forest City Washington

Forest City Washington

Company Profile

Leadership: Deborah Ratner Salzberg, president of Forest City Washington

Social Inclusion Leadership: Andre Banks, director of social inclusion; Phone: (202) 496-6624

Employees: Forest City Enterprises has 2,626 full-time employees and 239 part-time employees.

Locations: Corporate office is in Cleveland; regional offices are based in New York City, Boston, Washington, D.C., Denver, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Dallas

Business Scope: Founded in 1920 in Cleveland and publicly-held since 1960 (NYSE), Forest City Enterprises is currently  transitioning  to become a real estate investment trust (REIT) which will take effect on January 1, 2016. Forest City Washington is the company's Mid-Atlantic hub; it employs about 25 people. It specializes in mixed-use, residential and military family housing development/management and also has portfolios of affordable (FAH Program) and seniors housing properties with demonstrated skills in public-private partnerships and adaptive reuse.

Social Inclusion Best Practics

Forest City Waterfront, The Yards

Inclusion Initiative 

Forest City Washington is committed to building community with local businesses. The company is redeveloping a 42-acre waterfront site in Washington, D.C. known as The Yards – a mixed-use, nearly $2 billion project that involves 20 to 25 buildings and is estimated to take 15 to 20 years to complete. The firm wanted to go beyond race and gender and take a more inclusive approach by bringing in local businesses that are small or disadvantaged. This categorization is based on gross revenues and whether a small business has been denied a bank loan or other form of working capital. As part of that mission, the company’s social inclusion initiative has two major aspects.

  1. Contractor goals. To ensure local small contractor participation, Forest City Washington instituted a voluntary mentor/protégé program. Large prime contractors were encouraged to subcontract part of their contracts to local contractors that are small or disadvantaged. This is tied into the city’s requirement that 35 percent of the contracts go to certified business enterprises (CBEs), which are defined as small, local or disadvantaged contracting firms. The philosophy behind the program was “each one/teach one.” The goal was to create opportunities for small, disadvantaged businesses in the Ward 8 neighborhood of the District of Columbia so that they could build size, scope and scale to the point where they could perform work as prime contractors.
  2. Workforce intermediary.  Forest City became the first developer in Washington D.C. to launch its own workforce intermediary to recruit, train, hire and retain local residents. The purpose of the workforce intermediary was to understand the employment needs of the new Harris Teeter grocery store at The Yards, and to coordinate the efforts of local non-profit training partners and pair those with District of Columbia residents seeking employment.

Company Commitment

Deborah Ratner Salzberg, president of Forest City Washington, is devoted to the company’s core values, says Andre Banks, director of social inclusion. “When I first joined Forest City eight years ago, she told me that our work here went far beyond meeting our contracting and employment goals. She stressed that we could really help the local businesses and people, and we could be a force of good for the community.”

FCW: General Contractor

Inclusion Initiative Steps

For both its mentor/protégé program and its workforce intermediary, Forest City took two initial steps. First, the company brought in consulting firms to help set up both programs – Unique Staffing LLC, which specializes in human resources, administrative support services and workforce development; and APB & Associates, a project management firm. Both are well versed in the construction industry, as well as culturally sensitive and dedicated to inclusion efforts.

Second, working with the consultants, Forest City put together a business plan and a business case to clearly outline the process and goals of its programs.

Mentor/protégé program

    1. Forest City asked its prime general contractors to subcontract out a portion of each contract to a small, local disadvantaged contractor. The firm stressed that this was a voluntary program, but asked the larger contractors to embrace its values and goals for social inclusion.
    2. The company implemented a checklist of 8 different qualifiers to ensure mentor eligibility, including evidence of good standing with the city government and a developmental program to help protégés expand their core competencies.
    3. Forest City also had a similar eligibility checklist for potential protégés, asking them to provide references, financial statements and resumes of key personnel.
    4. For each project, the firm provided a list of 5 or 6 local companies that the general contractors could consider as subcontractor protégés. This sped the process along and gave the contractors a say as to the companies with which they worked.
    5. Forest City worked hand-in-hand with the smaller subcontractors to ensure they had the correct insurance and bonding. In some cases, the firm taught them new skills to complete projects.

Workforce intermediary program 

    1. Forest City held extensive talks with Harris Teeter to understand its needs in terms of positions and employees.
    2. The firm partnered initially with 12 (and later expanded that to 30) community groups, such as churches, schools and civic groups to help identify the best possible candidates for new positions.
    3. Forest City worked with a local community college to help potential employees through the job application process.
    4. The firm continued working with local groups to help individuals and ensure job retention.

Construction Progress/Outcomes

The Yards derives its name from the site’s original industrial use by the United States Navy, dating back to the early 1800s. Forest City was awarded the site in 2004 by the General Services Administration as a result of a nationwide proposal competition. Development of The Yards is well underway, with two residential/retail buildings and a third expected to reach completion in early 2016; two retail/office buildings; a waterfront park; and a waterfront walkway linking the site more directly to nearby Diamond Teague Park, as well as to the Nationals Park area.

Goal for mentor/protégé program. The goal is to create opportunities for small, disadvantaged contracting businesses in the Ward 8 neighborhood of Washington, D.C., by pairing them with larger prime contractors. Through these partnerships, the ultimate goal is for the smaller contractors to expand their technical capabilities and grow their businesses into viable enterprises that can hire local residents and expand the city’s tax base. This program is helping to facilitate the District of Columbia’s requirement that local CBE contracting firms be awarded at least 35 percent of the total work.

Results. Out of the seven parcels/projects developed thus far (and on which, in some cases, the work is completed), Forest City has met or exceeded its CBE goals:

  • Waterfront Park — 56 percent of work went to a CBE
  • Foundry Loft Apartments — 44 percent
  • Waterfront Walkway — 45 percent
  • Boilermaker Shops — 53 percent
  • Lumber Shed — 57 percent
  • Twelve12 — on track to meet 35 percent goal
  • Arris — on track to meet/exceed 35 percent goal

Goal for workforce intermediary program. The goal is to recruit, train, place and retain local D.C. residents for positions at the Harris Teeter store and achieve a 70 percent retention rate for the employers. Forest City told local residents that, if they went through the interview process with Harris Teeter and did not get a job, they may find work in one of the new restaurants being built.

Results. There was an 82 percent retention rate (staying on the job for six months or longer) at the Harris Teeter store. Nearly 300 local residents were hired at the Harris Teeter store and restaurants, which represents a 1 percent reduction in DC’s unemployment rate. In addition, the program achieved:

  • $410,958 additional tax revenue for Washington, D.C.
  • $693,600 potential work opportunity tax credit available to employers
  • $736,661 cost per hire savings to employers (in terms of the cost of not having to retrain replacement employees)

Next Steps

To date, the Yards is only about 20 percent completed – a third residential building will be completed in early 2016, and ground will be broken on four more buildings next year. When finished, the neighborhood will boast a total of 20 to 25 buildings, including the adaptive re-use of the existing historic Navy Yard industrial buildings on the site.

As the mentor/protégé partnerships develop, they often extend their work beyond the Forest City project, says Banks. “In some cases, we’re seeing these smaller contractors become the prime contractors for these projects, and that was the goal all along.”

Seeing the success thus far of the firm’s workforce intermediary, a neighborhood association has asked Forest City to continue the program for its upcoming movie/theater/restaurant project, says Banks. He adds that Forest City is now marketing its program in the surrounding D.C. area. “Having learned the ropes, we now want to bottle and package this as a service to other developers and/or government agencies that are looking to have a competitive edge.”

Defining Workforce Intermediary

A workforce intermediary is an organization that acts as a broker to pair businesses with local residents seeking work. These jobseekers are often dislocated workers, disadvantaged young adults, and the working poor. The workforce intermediary typically is made up of businesses, labor unions, educational institutions, social services agencies and faith-based and community groups. These groups work together to recruit, train, hire and retain employees.

By the Book

When putting together Forest City’s workforce intermediary, Andre Banks says he and the consultants who were brought into the project were all disciples of the book, Workforce Intermediaries for the Twenty-first Century, by Robert Giloth, Ph. D., vice president of the Center for Community and Economic Opportunity. “This was our bible as we were putting together our workforce intermediary,” explains Banks. “When we put together our business plan and our business case, we looked to the book as a roadmap for examples.”

Corporate Core Values

  • Integrity and openness
  • Accountability
  • Diversity and inclusion
  • Sustainability and stewardship
  • Community involvement
  • Entrepreneurial spirit
  • Teamwork

The Forest City Washington Story

Andre Banks

Andre Banks

In 2004, when Forest City Washington won a nearly $2 billion bid to redevelop a 42-acre waterfront parcel in an underutilized industrial area of the District of Columbia, the firm recognized both the challenge and the opportunity.  “Our goal was to have at least 35 percent of local businesses get their fair share of contracting work and to make sure that D.C. residents get hired,” explains Banks.

To achieve this goal, Forest City set up two vehicles to make this happen. The first was its mentor/protégé program to encourage its large prime contractors to subcontract out part of their projects to small, local disadvantaged contractors. At first, this was not an easy sell, Banks says. “We told the big general contractors, ‘these other firms are not your competition. You can work with them and teach them how to be good partners.’ ”

Sid Chapman – vice president of Goldin & Stafford, a site construction company – says the mentor/protégé program was a little different from the way his company normally did business. “There was a bit of an adjustment within our group to get used to it,” he explains, adding that the initial hurdle was well worth it. “We’ve been very happy with the excavator – we’re still working together five years later.”

That small excavating firm, AJK Enterprises, began as a one-man operation, says Banks. “This was a guy with a dump truck and the contract was for approximately $17,000. But now, AJK Enterprises has grown to seven trucks and is making roughly $30,000 a month.”

Another success story has been with the contractor who did the decking work for the waterfront walkway. Banks says the CBE firm was required to have two years’ worth of longshoreman’s insurance, adding that this would have severely eaten into its profit from the project. “We went to the insurance agency and said, ‘Look, can you prorate this insurance for four months?’ They agreed. It’s that sort of advocacy and guidance that really helps local firms stay in the game and prosper.”

That advocacy and guidance extended to on-the-job training, adds Banks, explaining that Forest City’s general contractor purchased most of the bridge materials through a CBE materials supplier. “We also taught him how to be an installer, and we taught the deck guys how to do cabling.”

The second vehicle that Forest City set up was its workforce intermediary to assist employers – in this case, the Harris Teeter grocery/pharmacy store – to find local residents able to work in its retail operations. “We focused on job readiness, placement and coaching to ensure retention,” Banks says. “Harris Teeter wound up hiring 82 out of 125 candidates from our rolls, and they’ve had an 82 percent retention rate.”

John Fleming, president of Unique Staffing and one of the Forest City consultants, saw that this retention rate is far above the industry norm and believes it reflects the quality of the employees that the workforce intermediary lined up. He also thinks that Andre Banks personally takes that mindset a step further and has turned his career into a calling. “Forest City was smart to hire Andre Banks,” says Fleming. “His roots are in the city, his roots are in development – his family opened the first shopping center in Southeast D.C. He has the filters needed to see the business side and the social side of this equation.”

Before joining Forest City, Banks served as the compliance manager for the District of Columbia’s Office of Local Business Development, a role that also has helped smooth the way for the development firm to work with the city. As a native Washingtonian, Banks explains that his father and uncles were born in Ward 8, one of the most impoverished areas in the city. “Our roots are here,” he says. “My father taught me to never give up on where we come from. My job with Forest City allows me to continue that legacy.”

Another consultant, Andre Bryan – president of APB Associates, a project management firm – says that one-on-one attention to applicants and employees is the key to high retention rates, as is reaching out to the community and faith-based groups. “We had an employee who couldn’t afford public transportation, so we had her register to get Metro passes,” he says. “We had another employee who was having family disputes on payday, so we referred him to a non-profit counseling group in the area.”

Bryan explains that it was important to instill the right mindset about work. “We would tell our people: ‘This isn’t just a job – this is your career.’”



Jones Lang LaSalle

Company Profile

Employees: Over 70,000.

Location: Americas headquarters in Chicago; 280 corporate offices in more than 80 countries worldwide.

Business Scope: JLL is a financial and professional services firm specializing in commercial real estate services and investment management. It provides tenant representation, property management, agency leasing, finance, and valuations. In 2015, it managed 4 billion square feet and closed $138 billion in client transactions. It is a Fortune 500 company and publicly traded on the NYSE under the symbol JLL.

Contact: Grant Clarke, director of diversity and inclusion for JLL Americas; Phone: (312) 228-2151

Diversity and Inclusion Initiatives

Six years ago, the leadership at JLL decided to focus even more proactively on diversity and inclusion by launching three key initiatives:

  1. Employee Resource Groups (ERG). These are voluntary, employee-led groups that serve as a resource for members and organizations by fostering a diverse, inclusive workplace and help attract, retain, and develop different segments of the population.

    The first four ERG that JLL formed were:

    • The African American Business Network;
    • The Women's Network;
    • The Latino Employee Resource Network; and
    • Building Pride, the network which represents lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT), and ally individuals. (An ally is a straight person who supports and advocates for the rights of LGBT people.)
  2. “We now have 6,500 employees who participate in our ERG in 200 locations in the United States, as well as some in the United Kingdom and in Brazil,” said Grant Clarke, director of diversity and inclusion for JLL Americas. “In 2017, we’ve held over 90 events – everything from career development to connecting with clients and panel discussions. These events provide fantastic insight and information.”

  3. Diverse Supplier Program. JLL works with diverse associations in every market, attending large and small conferences to increase networking and meet the widest selection of minority-owned suppliers.
  4. Diversity and Inclusion Council. This C-suite group meets four times a year to ensure that its goals for diversity and inclusion are documented and incorporated into every area of the business – from recruiting to hiring to compensation.

The Women’s Network

Linda Aronson, regional manager for JLL, joined the Women's Network when it first formed and then helped launch the New Jersey chapter in 2014. “When my co-chair and I started our chapter, we looked at what the other chapters were doing and were intimidated,” she said. “It seemed way too big, and we have day jobs.”

It made sense to start small, Aronson said. “We called a meeting and said, ‘Here's what we're doing – what are your thoughts?’” she explained, adding that some people said they were willing to be involved but wanted to be told what to do. “Instead, we turned it on them and said, ‘No, what do you want to do?’ If people come forward of their own initiative, they're going to be far more active.”

In the end, five women volunteered for specific slots – hosting the social events, organizing philanthropic programs, arranging programming, and running the learning and development sessions.

“In that first year, we had very loose goals – one charity event, two learning and development sessions, and a quarterly newsletter,” she said, adding that the group wound up having four philanthropic events, and a learning and development session every other month and a bi-monthly newsletter. “If we had planned it all out and told people what to do, it would've been a disaster. We blew past our goals, and the co-chair and I didn't have that much work.”

Aronson said the three main goals for the Women's Network (and the other ERGs) is to attract, retain, and develop talent. “So much of success is built around who you know and who knows you,” she said, explaining that the ERGs promote mingling and meeting with employees in different units within JLL. “Many of our social events are happy hours, and this gives everyone a chance to meet a lot of the women in the company. Sometimes we include our clients and host a cocktail party. It's social, but the clients get to meet a cross section of JLL.”

For learning and development, Aronson explained that her chapter has brought in consultants and human resources experts to talk about women's career issues, such as the importance of advocating for yourself. “I have been the beneficiary of many great mentors and coaches in my 34-year career at JLL – people who pushed me and told me, ‘You can do this,’” Aronson said. “Now as the co-chair of this chapter, I have a huge platform and can pay it forward – it's very exciting.”

The philanthropic work is also fulfilling. “We've participated in national efforts like breast cancer walks, Dress for Success, Girls on the Run and Habitat for Humanity,” Aronson said, adding that the chapters also work locally in their areas with food drives and shelters. “Next year, we want to choose one or two chapters and mobilize all of the chapters at once to showcase JLL making a tremendous difference.”

Currently, the Women's Network hosts an annual summit in which 60 members are invited for a day and a half of training, as well as the chance to interact with JLL's senior leadership. “It's a huge honor to be invited to this event,” Aronson said, adding that the summit itself illustrates the high level of support for diversity and inclusion within the company. “Our chairman of the board, Sheila Penrose, is always there at the women's summit.”

In the past, Colin Dyer – JLL's CEO who retired in the fall of 2016 – has attended the women's summit and told Aronson that even in retirement, he'll continue to attend because it's that important. “On a personal level, that's very gratifying,” said Aronson. “At a corporate level, it's very powerful that he'll still be involved.”

Aronson said it's not surprising that men are involved in the Women's Network, pointing out that many have chosen to serve as executive sponsors and board members and that male employees often join the group at its events. “It's a great learning experience for them – not just in terms of what the network does and why it's important, but also to better understand the challenges that women face,” she explained.

Building Pride

David Passaglia – international director of JLL’s Americas transaction management team and the executive sponsor of the Building Pride ERG, the network for the firm’s LGBT employees and their allies – agreed that there’s tremendous value of joining an ERG in a supportive role. “As a straight, white male, I am an ally,” he said, noting that out of the 350 members of this ERG, 60 percent are allies and 40 percent are self-identified LGBT individuals.

For the allies, this ERG gives them a chance to support and advocate for a group that is often bullied and misunderstood. “This lets everyone become more knowledgeable and more comfortable with terms and acronyms, as well as educates people about what to say or not to say,” Passaglia said, adding that he's proud of the events and projects the group as a whole has taken on.

“We have hub leaders in each major city, and they host local events and participate in charity events and march in pride parades,” he explained. “We had 80 JLL employees march in the Chicago pride parade shortly after the 2016 terrorist attack on the nightclub in Orlando.”

JLL also works with the Trevor Project, a national organization providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to LGBT young people; as well as participates with the It Gets Better Project by encouraging JLL employees to create short inspirational videos. Passaglia pointed out that some companies use that platform to make a recruiting pitch: We're LTGB friendly – come work for us.” But our employees didn't take that approach,” he said. “They pretty much stuck to the message that you might feel alone today, but there are companies and communities that embrace diversity, and you can go on to have a productive, happy life.”

Passaglia noted that while JLL encourages an open, accepting workplace, the firm also respects that not all LGBT employees want to participate in its Building Pride network. “A number of people have chosen not to come out at work,” he said. “That's their choice, and we support that too.”

For the Millennials, this is practically a non-issue, Passaglia said. “The 20-somethings already have the attitude of: ‘What's the big deal?’”' he said, adding that he suspects the other generations will eventually come to the same level of acceptance. “Over time – 5, 10, 15 years – things will change.”

Millennials, regardless of their orientation, appreciate a diverse workforce, Passaglia said. “When we're recruiting, we can point to our ERGs, and we can point to our awards in ethics and sustainability,” he said, highlighting the results of a national benchmarking survey by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation that tracks policies and practices related to LGBT workplace issues. “On their corporate equality index, JLL scored 100 percent.”

A firm that embraces diversity and inclusion is also more attractive to clients and its customers, Passaglia said. “JLL, like all real estate firms, is essentially a service company,” he said. “And service companies, at heart, are all about people.”

All ERGs work to create an environment that allows employees to bring their whole selves to work, Passaglia said. “That's going to result in a more dynamic, more productive office environment,” he said. “We have room for improvement, but I'm proud of where we are and our trajectory.”

Looking Back and Going Forward

It took JLL a year to launch its first four ERGs, Clarke said, adding that the firm has since started VetNet, an ERG for military veterans, as well as an ERG for employees with disabilities (physical and learning).

“Next year, we are launching an intergenerational ERG to explore how different generations interact and what are some of the issues that impact different age groups,” Clarke said. “We envision this being helpful to Baby Boomers who are looking after elderly parents or who are transitioning to retirement. It might also address how different age groups can best achieve work/life balance.”

Despite the wide range of ERGs at JLL, Clarke said it's not about separating out diverse employees and slotting them into a specific networking group. “Companies often do a good job of celebrating diversity, but they forget about the inclusion part of it,” he said. “I tell our employees: ‘You don't have to BE to BElong,’ and I encourage our employees to join all of the groups. We have straight white males in all of our ERGs.”

Diverse Supplier Program

To ensure diversity and inclusion in every aspect of its projects, JLL instituted its supplier diversity program six years ago. To help find minority suppliers, the firm affiliated itself with government agencies at the federal, state, city, and county levels, as well as with these organizations:

  • National Minority Supplier Development Council
  • Women’s Business Enterprise National Council
  • National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce
  • Association for Service Disabled Veterans

Bill Miller, senior vice president of platform operations for the supply chain, said this has proven to be good for business. “The majority of our clients want suppliers that reflect the communities that they are serving,” he said.

Conference Connections

To foster relationships with these groups, Miller said that JLL employees attend their national conferences and have for years. “But now we are starting to make more of an effort to go to boutique conferences,” he said, explaining that these are typically attended by 500 people or less and often more diverse.

Miller said these smaller conferences have more of a retreat atmosphere and allow for more panel discussions and one-on-one conversations. “We are hosting our own boutique conference next March – the Business Collaborative 2017 – in Orlando,” he said. “We're expecting to have 200 to 300 attendees, comprised of 10 prime companies and 20 to 30 diverse companies.”

JLL has asked its prime companies to invite their diverse suppliers to this conference, Miller said, explaining that this introduces the firm to quality suppliers. “If our prime companies are vouching for a supplier, that's an automatic endorsement,” he said.

Making the Investment

Miller pointed out that in 2016, JLL spent $270 million with diverse suppliers. “This is our highest year yet,” he said, adding that this number is projected to grow to $332 million in 2017. “These are powerful numbers. JLL is demonstrating to the markets and communities where we serve that we are diverse.”

Nor is this investment a feel-good carve out, Miller said. “This is a significant part of our business based on finding the best partners,” he said.

Awarding Results

JLL’s own Supplier of Distinction Award program, which it launched six years ago, reinforces the idea that some of its best suppliers are minority-owned. The firm recognizes suppliers in six categories:

  • Collaboration.
  • Diversity.
  • Energy and sustainability.
  • Innovation.
  • Product/service excellence.
  • Total cost management.

“Three times in the past five years, our supplier who won for diversity also won in multiple categories,” Miller said. “This speaks to the caliber of our diverse supplier partners. These companies may be owned by diverse people, but JLL is driven by the economic model and is only interested in working with suppliers that drive value to our company.”

Diversity and Inclusion Council

Clarke said he credits JLL&rsquos Diversity and Inclusion Council for keeping the firm’s goals in this area front and center. Specifically, the council provides strategic direction and influences change in the firm’s policies, procedures, and practices. “The council is led by our CEO and includes many of our C-Suite leadership and 12 to 13 other employees representing all areas of the business from corporate solutions to marketplace and all of the ERG leads,” he explained. “They meet four times a year and two of those meetings are face-to-face for an entire day. They plan and ensure that there is language built into all of our performance goal setting.”

As part of that goal-setting process, JLL sends out quarterly predictive score cards to all of its business units specifically measuring diversity and inclusion goals. “Scorecards focus on hires, terminations, and where they are in relationship to their local indicators of success across female and minority areas,” Clarke explained.

Each business unit has its own action plan that it developed with human resources, Clarke said. “The scorecards are pretty granular in laying out what success looks like across each area of the business down to the geographic level,” he said.

In 2017, anytime a hiring manager at JLL opens a request for hire, JLL will automatically send an email outlining three things hiring managers can do to lessen bias during sourcing and hiring, Clarke said. “This can be simple things like a list of questions to ask or what not to ask during an interview,” he said, adding that hiring managers will also be sent a module-based video to help support these critical decisions.

Finally, Clarke pointed out that JLL’s senior leadership is held accountable for meeting the firm’s goals of diversity and inclusion. “Their compensation is tied to measurable goals in this area,” he said, “If leadership meets their goals, they are compensated accordingly.”


Roosevelt University

University Profile

Roosevelt University is an independent, non-profit, metropolitan university with two distinct campuses located in downtown Chicago and suburban Schaumburg, Illinois.


430 S. Michigan Ave.
Chicago, IL 60605
(312) 341-3500

1400 N. Roosevelt Blvd.
Schaumburg, IL 60173
(847) 619-7300

Scholarship contact:

Jon DeVries
Director of the Chicago School of Real Estate at Roosevelt University
430 S. Michigan Avenue, Wabash 1210
Chicago, IL 60605-1315
(312) 281-3358

Roosevelt University’s Commitment to Diversity

Roosevelt University

The school was first established when it broke away from the Central YMCA College of Chicago because the board of that school wanted to limit the number of women and minority students. "When it was founded in 1945, its goal was to break down barriers of discrimination," explained Dr. Tom Hamilton, Gerald Fogelson distinguished chair in the Chicago School of Real Estate at Roosevelt University. "Our student body is more than 50 percent female and 50 percent minority – it looks much more like the general population."

As an alumna of Roosevelt University, Goldie B. Wolfe Miller, the founder and chair of the Goldie B. Wolfe Miller Women Leaders in Real Estate Initiative, said she felt an obligation to the school. "They gave me a full academic scholarship, and I came out debt free," she said, adding that Roosevelt was also a good fit because it has a graduate school for real estate.

Wolfe Miller explained that many graduate school students have already been working in the real estate industry for a few years and often seek out a graduate degree to seek a higher position in their firms or to launch into a new branch of the industry. "By targeting the graduate school level students, we are assured that this is their career path," she said.

The Goldie B. Wolfe Miller Women Leaders in Real Estate Initiative

Mission: The mission of the Goldie B. Wolfe Miller Women Leaders in Real Estate Initiative is to prepare women for senior leadership roles in all sectors of commercial real estate.

About the Scholarship: This scholarship program supports and promotes women studying in the field of commercial real estate. The recipients receive tuition assistance, one-on-one mentoring, professional training classes, and networking opportunities through their participation and membership in real estate associations and events. The Initiative was established at Roosevelt University. In 2015, it formed a separate 501(c)(3) entity and now offers its program to other graduate programs in the Chicago metropolitan area. To date, there have been 52 scholarship recipients. Candidates for MBA with a concentration in real estate or MSRE designations, known as "Goldie scholars," are granted a special certificate to highlight their participation in the program.

Financial Aid: $5,000 each year for a total of $10,000 per recipient.

Mentorship/Networking: Each scholarship student is matched with a senior woman in commercial real estate. The mentor and scholar meet, attend industry events, and have calls on a regular basis. The scholars are also provided additional names of senior real estate professionals (men and women) whom they can contact. The scholars become student members of the ULI Chicago chapter through an established alliance with the Initiative. Roosevelt University offers additional free student memberships to real estate organizations of their choosing, including NAIOP, the Commercial Real Estate Development Association.

Additional Coursework: Roosevelt University scholarship students receive free weekly professional training classes in business writing, industry technology and software, and professional development.

Goldie B. Wolfe Miller

Origins: Goldie B. Wolfe Miller, the founder and chair of the Initiative, began her working life in advertising. “Someone told me that if I was so good at sales, I should be selling bridges not widgets,” she said. She took that fortuitous advice and landed at Arthur Rubloff & Company, the largest real estate firm in Chicago at the time. She rose through the ranks to become their first female vice president. She left to launch her own firm in 1989. Goldie B. Wolfe & Company grew to become the largest woman-owned commercial real estate firm in the country; she sold it in 1998. She is currently the president of Millbrook Corporate Real Estate Services.

History of the Initiative

2017 will mark the 10th anniversary of the establishment of the Goldie B. Wolfe Miller Women Leaders in Real Estate Initiative. The program encompasses financial aid, mentorship, networking, as well as career support and development. It began in 2007 at Roosevelt University, a private university of 7,000 students with a campus in Chicago and another in the suburbs of Schaumburg, Ill.

In 2015, the program became independent so it could also offer scholarships to students attending other Chicago colleges, including Northwestern University, University of Chicago, and DePaul University. "Our focus right now is in Chicago," explained Goldie B. Wolfe Miller, the founder and chair of the Initiative. "If this is a success, we can think about taking it nationwide in five to 10 years."

But back in 2007, Wolfe Miller was thinking about strategic philanthropy. "I wanted to do more than write a check," she said. "I wanted to really make a difference."

More than anything, Wolfe Miller said she wanted to give back to the industry that had been so good to her, as well as to the country itself. A Holocaust survivor, she was born in Austria in a displaced persons camp and came to America as a very young girl. She watched her parents work hard and succeed and learned that hard work and persistence were the keys to her own American dream. Not that it was an easy road – as a divorced single mother, Wolfe Miller said she had no choice but to go to work and earn a living.

"I didn't have definite goals back then," she said. "I was just intent on making a living. Sometimes needs overcome goals."

She recalled that when she was coming up the career ladder, there were hardly any women at the professional level. "There were women who pounded the pavement and knocked on doors and were the lead gatherers, but they turned those over to male brokers – they weren't doing the deals themselves," she said.

Now, there are more women in the industry but not to the degree that there should be, Wolfe Miller said. "It's 40 years later, and we should be doing better," she said. "Gender shouldn't even be a point of discussion."

Still, gender remains an issue because women are still the primary caregivers in their families and continue to have fewer networking opportunities than their male counterparts, Wolfe Miller said. "I want the women in the industry to be leaders," she said. "I want them to aspire to corner office opportunities."

The key to that corner office comes down to mentoring and networking, Wolfe Miller said. "The scholars love the mentoring and networking," she said. "They'll say that's the best part, even over the financial assistance."

Karlie Mayher, who graduated last May and was a Goldie Scholar for her two years in Roosevelt's program, agreed. "The tuition assistance does help, but the mentoring and connections were definitely the most valuable aspects," she said.

Mayher sang the praises for her mentor, Leslie Karr, a senior managing director for Newmark Grubb Knight Frank Retail, a commercial real estate advisory firm. "We would meet for coffee or lunch, and she would sign me up for events and we'd go to those together," she said. "She was available for phone calls and emails and was very helpful during the Eisenberg competition."

Karr was equally impressed with Mayher and said she was an ace at networking. "I could take her anywhere and say: ‘Go mingle,’ and she'd go," she said, adding that she also made it a point to introduce her to young people. "I wanted her to meet other women in their 20s who had found their ideal career paths. You coach the mentee so that she can find her own path."

As a 20 year veteran of the industry, Karr noted that it was rewarding to be a mentor and to meet the young people coming up through the ranks. "It's good to have a younger, fresher eye on the industry and understand their challenges," she said.

Despite challenges, there are great opportunities for women in real estate, Karr said. "It often takes nerves of steel to be in this business because it's very competitive," she said. "A lot of times, you don't get paid until you close the deal, so it's tough," she said. "We all need help and mentoring."

Mayher said she also appreciated the student membership in NAIOP through the program because it allowed her to go to breakfasts, panels, and industry events for free. "I met architects, developers, general contractors, and brokers," she said. "I still use all those contacts and connections ― it's great to have their advice and insight."

In addition, Mayher said she still uses a reference book on business writing that she received through one of the program's professional courses. "It covered how to write a professional email, a resume, a cover letter," she said.

The professional courses – paired with mentoring and networking – emphasize life skills, said Dr. Tom Hamilton, Gerald Fogelson distinguished chair in the Chicago School of Real Estate at Roosevelt University. "This is not just a financial package."

Jon DeVries, director of the Chicago School of Real Estate at Roosevelt University, agreed, pointing out that the focus on business and interpersonal skills makes the scholars attractive to potential employers. "It makes them much more eligible recruits," he said, adding that the technology and software classes help the scholars once they are hired. "These skills allow them to hit the ground running."

Both Hamilton and DeVries praised Wolfe Miller for her generosity and hands-on involvement with the program. They also praised the scholars themselves. "These students work extra hard," DeVries said. "They all want the American dream."

Tips for Establishing a Scholarship Program

For other commercial real estate professionals interested in establishing their own scholarship programs, Goldie Wolfe Miller, the founder and chair of the Goldie B. Wolfe Miller Women Leaders in Real Estate Initiative, spelled out these initial steps:

  1. Be clear about the intention behind the program. "Look in the mirror and know that you want to do something," she said.
  2. Consider how much time and money to donate to this cause. "It's very rewarding but time consuming," Wolfe Miller said. "You have to review applications, line up mentors, put on leadership programs, interview potential scholars. You might interview 20 women to fill seven slots."
  3. Interview several universities. "Look for one that has a graduate program in real estate," she advised, adding that it's also helpful if there's a personal connection. "It could be your alma mater or perhaps you already know people at that school."
  4. Research and think things through. "You can call Jean and me, and we will share information about what we've learned along the way," she said, referring to Jean Meilinger, program director for the Initiative. "You may not even want to be tied to a university at all. You could start out independently with your own foundation."

The Midwest Real Estate Challenge

The Harold E. Eisenberg Foundation is a charitable organization committed to raising money for cancer research, as well as furthering real estate education. For the past six years, it has sponsored the Midwest Real Estate Challenge to provide students with a hands-on opportunity to apply what they're learning in their university courses to the working world of real estate.

Teams of students are paired with volunteer advisors (all of whom are prominent Chicago real estate professionals) and charged with creating a development plan for a local site. They must provide a full analysis of their building plan, as well as spell out the effects it would have on the local community. The winning plan is deemed to be the most economically viable and the most complementary to the surrounding area. The winning team receives a $5,000 scholarship awarded to its university.

This year, the Roosevelt University team won honorable mention in the challenge. In the previous three years, it won the first place award. Dennis A. Harder, an adjunct faculty member at Roosevelt University, said the school's success record with the challenge is rewarding for the students and gratifying to the university. "We seek to give our students a thorough experience in real estate, not just the classroom," he said. "The Eisenberg challenge is the perfect laboratory for the students to cook up a solution."

Jon DeVries, director of the Chicago School of Real Estate at Roosevelt University, said he's proud that Roosevelt's teams are typically more diverse than the teams from the other schools in the challenge, adding that he thinks this gives them an extra edge. "It's not just about having a range of skills, it's also about being able to work with a range of people," he said. "This is so important in an urban environment."

Katie Hurley Wales, executive director of the Harold E. Eisenberg Foundation, agreed that the teams from Roosevelt University tend to be more diverse than the other teams. "Their student body is diverse, so their real estate teams are reflective of that."

She added that Roosevelt's students also come to the table with a little more real world experience. "They tend to be older and more mature and more thoughtful," she said. "They've interfaced with their communities, and those sorts of life experiences give them an advantage. Their presentations have been dynamite – they come prepared."


Trammell Crow Company

Company Profile

Employees: Approximately 210.

Location: Executive headquarters in Dallas; offices in 16 major U.S. cities.

Business Scope: Commercial real estate development and investment firm. It has developed or acquired 2,600 buildings valued at more than $60 billion and comprised of 565 million square feet. The company serves tenants and investors in office, industrial, retail, healthcare, multi-family residential, and mixed use projects. It also specializes in joint venture speculative development, acquisition/re-development ventures, build-to-suit development, and provides incentive-based fee development services.

Contact: Adam Weers, principal with Trammell Crow Company; Phone: 202-337-1025. 

Diversity and Inclusion Initiatives

Trammell Crow Company, Women's Network

The Ambassador Program, the Women’s Network, and the video project are the most recent focus of Trammell Crow Company's efforts to be more diverse and inclusive:

  1. Women's Network. This program, which was launched last year, is a forum for the women employees within Trammell Crow Company (TCC). Communication revolves around a quarterly conference call that invites all women of the firm to call in and participate in a 30- to 40-minute presentation, followed by a 20-minute question and answer session. The presenters are often executive or senior level employees, and topics range from time management and financial modeling to discussions about trends within the industry/regions and ongoing development projects.
  2. Ambassador Program. A select group of employees chosen through an application process to serve as Ambassadors for TCC in 2016. These eight individuals will join an affinity commercial real estate group of their choosing and participate in that group's conferences and events for one year. Corporate funding has been budgeted to cover the cost of membership and travel for each of the ambassadors.
  3. Diversity Video. TCC hired a production company to help create a short video to showcase the unique programs offered through TCC’s Diversity and Inclusion Initiative, including the Women's Network and the Ambassador Program.

The Trammell Crow Company Story

Getting the Conversation Started

Adam Weers

Adam Weers

Founded in 1948, TCC is one of the oldest commercial real estate firms in the country. While it is proud of its long and prolific history, the leadership realized that focusing on diversity is crucial to the long-term sustainability of the firm.

"We operate in an interconnected, global, diverse world," says Adam Weers, principal with Trammell Crow Company. "This encompasses our capital partners, our markets, our cities, and our end users and tenants in the properties we develop. We need to understand the ecosystem in which we live and work."

A Five-part Process

The first step to understanding the bigger ecosystem of diversity was to first focus on its own company, which it accomplished through a five-part process:

  1. Confront the facts. “You must understand what your situation is first," Weers said, explaining that TCC gave all of its employees a 30-question survey about diversity.
  2. Create a plan. "The survey gave us the framework to build out our programs," Weers said, referring to the Women's Network and the Ambassador Program.
  3. Declare the vision for the plan, internally and externally. "You must have a clear message," Weers said, pointing out the company's recent video on its LA Plaza project highlights the benefits of having a diverse team.
  4. Embark on an educational process. "Communicate why this is important and why it makes sense to commit to diversity," he said.
  5. Build mentor and support networks to ensure the plan is carried out. "We talked to each ambassador applicant's supervisor to make sure the applicant had the support of his or her supervisor to fully participate in these affinity groups from the office," said Courtney Nolan, a marketing specialist for TCC.

Defining Diversity

TCC recognizes that there is more to the term "diversity" than merely race and ethnicity. "There are many ways to define diversity," Weers said. "We are also conscious about age, background, and length of time with the company."

Gaining Momentum

From the executive committee to the steering committee to the diversity committee, the leadership of TCC came together to put their focus and resources behind its diversity programs. "Our CEO, COO, and executive leadership team are incredibly supportive," Weers said. "Not just in words, but with time and dollars."

This investment is beginning to reap benefits. "We've been at this for a few years now and feel as if we have good momentum," Weers said. "The Women's Network was launched last year, and the Ambassador Program with its inaugural class of eight employees is getting started this fall."

The Women's Network

Trammell Crow Company's Women's Network is a simple but powerful program. Each quarter, the firm holds a one-hour conference call that is comprised of a presentation (typically from someone within the company) that lasts 30 to 40 minutes, followed by a 20-minute question and answer session. The calls are open to everyone in the company, regardless of gender or title.

On a typical call, 30 to 60 women participate and discuss topics ranging from time management and financial modeling to the career paths of some of the firm's executives. "We talk about what helped them in their careers and what challenges they faced ― what worked and what did not," Nolan said.

Davis Griffin, a principal who has been with the firm since 2002, said the response has been very positive, not just from the participants but also from the presenters. "The topics are interesting, and it's apparent that the speakers have put in a great deal of preparation and effort," she said.

Another helpful topic is ongoing commercial real estate projects, Griffin said. "This gives project managers an opportunity to discuss lessons learned," she said. "When someone shares a problem and explains how it was overcome, we can all benefit."

Griffin said she's especially pleased to see the program try new things. "On a recent call, we paired two women who didn't know one another and had them interview each other before the call," she explained.  "Then they each gave introductions to the other on the next call. They enjoyed that experience so much that they met up while on vacation. That's a connection made."

Those connections are the foremost goal of the Women's Network. "We know there's a lot of outstanding women in the firm, but we're all spread out geographically in different cities," Griffin said, pointing out that a typical office only has 10 to 15 people.  "By pulling together this Women's Network, it allowed us to create critical mass."

Going Forward

Griffin added that the Women's Network is also considering smaller "lean-in circles" of three to four women. "We'd rotate them out of their groups every year, so they'd get a chance to get to know other women in the firm," she said, adding that they're also thinking about the addition of a book club. "One speaker mentioned the book, ‘Presence ― Bringing Your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges’ [by Amy Cuddy], so that could be a natural offshoot."

Another possible offshoot for the Women's Network could be self-assessments to understand individual strengths and weaknesses, Griffin said. "This could help further professional development," she said.

The Women's Network could also lead to a more formal mentoring program in the future, Weers noted.  "Right now, it's successful in that it's a welcoming environment so that women want to stay in the firm and stay in the industry," he said, pointing out that most firms could easily pull off a similar program. "It's not hard to implement, organize, and maintain a quarterly call.  It's very simple, but it's very powerful."

The Ambassador Program

Another diversity program that Trammell Crow Company is currently launching is its Ambassador Program, an initiative to have a select group of employees represent the company within affinity groups geared toward promoting diverse populations. An inaugural class of eight employees has each selected an affinity group in their respective markets to join for a year. "They'll go to their annual conferences and meetings and represent TCC, as well as report back about their involvement," Weers said. "They'll talk to others and make connections. This will bring us greater exposure to diverse groups and people."

While many TCC employees already belong to affinity groups, this program is unique in that corporate dollars are being allocated to ensure that the membership fees and travel costs do not have to come from the regional offices or from the ambassadors themselves. “The Ambassador Program is a way for us to appeal to those employees who maybe aren’t as active in affinity groups because they see the financial ‘ask’ as a hurdle,” Nolan explained. “By removing this ask, we are attracting employees eager to engage in groups outside our company. In addition, it sends a powerful message that corporate cares about diversity and is putting dollar signs behind that statement.”

The goal behind the Ambassador Program is three-fold, Weers said. "This is about casting a wider net for recruitment purposes, building our brand, and getting new business," he said. "Anytime you're out in the world, you're open to opportunities – so much of business is about being in the right place at the right time."

To ensure the ambassadors were the right people at the right time, the firm discussed plans for its new program at its annual senior strategy meeting. "We asked the participants to identify employees who are passionate about diversity, and they came up with a list of 25 to 30 people," explained Weers, adding that those employees were then invited to apply for an ambassador slot. "Not everybody wanted to do this.  Some said they had too much on their plates or they might be interested next year."

Still, the firm was pleased to find that it had more applicants than ambassador slots. Weers said the firm wanted a wide range of ambassadors. "From associates to principals, and people who have been with the firm a short time to those who have been here a long time," he said, noting that the voluntary aspect was equally important. "If it's voluntary, you're more likely to get people who are active and enthusiastic."

Arthur Santa-Maria, a senior associate who joined the firm two years ago, said he applied to be in the Ambassador Program because it will be a great opportunity to get the word out about the importance of diversity, as well as to highlight TCC’s commitment to promoting a diverse and inclusive workplace. "It's exciting to be a part of this pilot program," he said.

For his affinity group, Santa-Maria chose the Hispanic Networking Group affiliated with parent company CBRE Group Inc. "It's been very active getting in front of college campuses and showcasing the diversity in our company to college and business school students," he said. "The group will also be a great way to connect with professionals working with real estate and investment groups based in Latin America."

Santa-Maria said he’s proud to become a dedicated ambassador and representative of Trammell Crow and looks forward to attending events of affinity groups that are devoted to diversity. This demonstrates a corporate-level commitment not just to our business, but to our industry, he said.

On a personal level, Santa-Maria also said he can foresee numerous benefits to this program, such as professional development through additional coaching and training, as well as internal networking with the other ambassadors. He added that he's encouraged by the enthusiasm that others in the firm have for the program and for diversity in general. "My supervisor was excited that I was selected to be in the program and has shown his full support for the time commitment to be in this group," he said.

Weers said he's excited to see how the program unfolds. "Next year, we'll be able to give real life examples and testimonials about the program," he said. "Those will be great stories to tell and will create interest in our Ambassador Program going forward."

Affinity Groups

Each ambassador was allowed to join the affinity group of his or her own choosing, with the only stipulation being that the commercial real estate group is committed to advancing diversity. Here’s the list of groups that this year’s ambassadors chose:

  • CBRE’s Women’s Network
  • Commercial Real Estate Women
  • Women in Real Estate
  • Women’s Alternative Investment Summit
  • ULI’s Women’s Leadership Initiative
  • CBRE’s African American Network Group
  • NAIOP’s Diversity Roundtable
  • CBRE’s Hispanic Network Group

Making a Video, Telling the Story

When Trammell Crow Company visits colleges, business schools, and even high schools, one of the topics is often diversity – diversity within the industry and diversity within the firm. Weers said this always generates questions and interest. "The top-tier students are thinking about diversity and who they want to work for," he said. "When we highlight diversity, we always see our application numbers increase."

To take this a step beyond presentations, the firm decided to make a video to highlight the Women's Network and the Ambassador Program, as well as to showcase LA Plaza Village, a mixed-used redevelopment project in downtown Los Angeles comprised of 355 multi-family units and 43,000 square feet of retail. It is adjacent to Union Station, Chinatown, El Pueblo, and Civic Core/City Hal and slated for completion in 2018.

"We brought in a diverse team to mirror the communities there," Nolan explained, adding that this area includes Asian and Hispanic populations. "LA Plaza is a real mixing bowl. We wanted to represent the people who would be there in the redeveloped area."

To make the video, TCC hired an outside firm. Nolan said they looked for a video production company that could be creative with corporate footage. It took about three months to pull together, with the finished video running two and a half minutes. "Interview individuals who are passionate and directly involved with your programs," Nolan advised.

Weers said one of the surprising discoveries from its employee survey was the need for more education.  "We needed a tool to explain why diversity is important, why it's a big deal, and why it's important to the future of the firm," he said. "The video goes beyond symbolic – it's a real, tangible way to demonstrate how important diversity is."

Nolan said the video is a cool, fun way to convey this message. "Not only is great for internal education, it will be a great external recruiting tool," she said.

Next Steps

TCC’s increased focus on diversity and inclusion taps into its core values, Nolan said, spelling out R-I-S-E – respect, integrity, service and excellence. "Our efforts correspond to our corporate culture as a whole," she said. "It's why we do what we do every day."

A shift in culture is what's necessary to bring more diversity to the industry, Weers noted. "We are all collectively behind the curve, and we need to start yesterday to get to work and make the changes," he said. "Our industry has a long way to go, so there's no excuse for waiting another day."


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