Since it began offering a real estate degree in 2002, Roosevelt University has welcomed 500 students in undergraduate or graduate programs. Of those, an impressive 45 percent is female, and 61 percent are non-white – far higher than typical programs, says Collete English Dixon, executive director, Marshall Bennett Institute of Real Estate at Roosevelt University in Chicago. Dixon spoke to NAIOP’s Board of Directors at CRE.Converge 2017 this week in Chicago.
Roosevelt University was founded in 1945 with the goal of offering equal access to education and opportunity to all students, regardless of race or background. That goal is exemplified by the university’s 2016 student population, which was 60 percent female and 58 percent non-white.
Roosevelt has partnered with Duke Realty and various organizations – including NAIOP – to advance diversity initiatives across real estate. Why? To start, the talent pool for recruitment lacks diversity. A 2013 Commercial Real Estate Diversity Report says that the population of all college students isn’t very diverse at all: 40 percent white women, 37 percent white men, and 23 percent non-white men and women.
This mirrors the commercial real estate’s industry statistics of senior executives (77 percent white men, 14 percent white women, 3 percent Hispanic men, 1.6 percent Asian men; 1.3 percent Black men, >1 percent non-white women). In regards to career advancement, the study says that mid-level white males have a 1 in 3 chance of moving to a senior level; a black female at the same level has a 1 in 12.6 chance.
The lack of opportunity, says Dixon, is a hindrance. Talent will go where there is opportunity. The challenges to developing that pipeline of talent are very real: A lack of role models, education, industry awareness and competitive positioning deter diverse candidates from considering CRE. Both Roosevelt University and Duke Realty have focused on increasing internship and mentoring opportunities, and think that along with their other real estate-focused programming, it will positively affect the talent pipeline of the industry, particularly in Chicago.
How else can CRE move the needle? Dixon suggested the following:
- Find an undergraduate or graduate program that has a diverse student population and consistently engage with students and the program; freshman year isn’t too early.
- Provide internships and mentoring to students.
- Provide an inclusive environment for employees – showing that diversity is important attracts talent and increases retention.
- Provide educational resources to support employees’ pursuit of additional education to advance in their careers.
- Provide scholarships/resources that are meaningful to student success.
In closing, Dixon congratulated NAIOP’s commitment to diversity and its work towards increasing the number of talented individuals contributing to the industry. For more on NAIOP’s diversity initiative, visit naiop.org/diversity.