ULI Toronto News

Diversty, Our Strength

By: Richard Joy

Diversity is our strength. As a city building industry, however, it’s not really our practice according to a national 2016 Matrix Search Group study.

Over 70 percent of industry professionals in Canada are of Caucasian or European descent. While overall workforce gender balance is progressing slowly, fully 79 percent of women are not from diverse communities. Individuals identifying as LGBTQ are reflected in proportion to Canadian demographics, but employees of aboriginal descent and from the disability community are significantly underrepresented.

The Matrix report digs into other details that bear greater exposure.

Especially troubling, if not surprising, is the degree to which visible minorities are underrepresented in corporate leadership positions. Only 28 percent of executives, senior or middle management are non-white, and a mere 14 percent are owners, partners or in the C-suite. While women overall now represent over 50 percent of the workforce and equally share positions at the management level, only 34 percent of women can be found in the C-suite.

A recent Urban Land Institute panel of national real estate leaders focusing on gender equality revealed a deep concern that companies that do not reflect the communities they serve are putting themselves, and the industry as a whole, at a competitive disadvantage. It’s a view echoed in the Matrix study that revealed an overwhelming consensus across the industry that greater diversity lends itself to increased business innovation.

Recent developments suggest that industry leadership has taken stock of this evidence and is working to step up efforts to open the paths of opportunity and leadership.

In January, REALPAC, an elite national trade association dedicated to advancing the long-term vitality of Canada’s investment real property sector, launched a Diversity & Inclusion Task Force with a no-nonsense walk-the-walk set of objectives to achieve industry diversity. This includes a proposed pledge of its members to only participate on public forum panels of two or more people if “at least one woman and/or a person from a diverse group is represented,” not including the moderator.

For its part, the Matrix Search Group recently rebranded itself to Matrix360 to reflect an evolution of its talent recruitment focus to expand into advisory services of workplace “diversity, inclusion, equity and belonging.”

ULI Toronto is also embarking on a diversity and inclusion strategy development plan, and has recruited the leadership of Matrix360’s Managing Partner, Chandran Fernando, and the past and founding co-chairs of our highly successful Women’s Leadership Initiative, Leslie Woo, Chief Planning and Development Officer (Metrolinx), Godyne Sibay, Managing Partner, Ontario Region (McCarthy’s LLP), and Toni Rossi, President, Real Estate Division (Infrastructure Ontario) to help lead this priority of ULI’s Chair, Derek Goring (First Gulf).

We have long undertaken to ensure that all our thought leadership events reflect the REALPAC pledge. Our board leadership is over 60 percent female and is 30 percent diverse. Our overall membership, at just over one-third women, clearly has a way to go. No data exists on our membership diversity, something we will be addressing in the coming months.

Being as an industry who we are as a society is an idea that appears to have very little resistance in Canada. Support for diversity initiatives and anti-discrimination policies has never been higher.

Achieving such a goal, however, requires a deeper commitment from all of us. Each of us must play a role in understanding what a diversity and inclusion strategy looks like for their company.

Re-posted with permission from Building Magazine.

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