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Mining the strength of differences

The IREM Diversity Advisory Board ensures that all are welcome, supported and heard

By Jasmyn Sylvester, CPM, ACoM
“Breaking the Glass Ceiling: Empowering Women in Real Estate” at the 2019 IREM Global Summit
“Breaking the Glass Ceiling: Empowering Women in Real Estate” at the 2019 IREM Global Summit

For most, “diversity,” “equity” and “inclusion” seem to be words that can be used interchangeably. In reality, they’re related but cover different ground. The University of Michigan’s Chief Diversity Officer Robert Sellers puts it very succinctly: “Diversity is where everyone is invited to the party. Equity means that everyone gets to contribute to the playlist. And inclusion means that everyone has the opportunity to dance.”

The IREM Diversity Advisory Board is the orchestrator of an incredible industry dance party, where everyone is invited to join in, contribute and boogie! We work at the national level to attract and welcome a diverse membership, starting with a focus on ethnic diversity and jumping off from there to other attributes, like age and gender. The board concentrates on career advancement, education and certification, and also makes appropriate recommendations for adjustments to IREM diversity programs as needed. IREM affirms we are an inclusive organization that embraces and values differences and welcomes all individuals. We provide equity to our members, vendors and staff. In addition, the Diversity Advisory Board serves the IREM Foundation’s mission to support initiatives developed by IREM. Such initiatives include the Diversity & Inclusion Succession Initiative (DISI) and a reinforced partnership with the Real Estate Associate Program (REAP).

Partners in progress

DISI recognizes IREM members from underrepresented groups in the real estate management profession who have demonstrated leadership skills at the chapter level, an interest in advancing their leadership skills at the national level and an interest in advancing their property management careers using IREM networking and resources. In 2019, the board was honored to name 10 dynamic leaders from across the nation as part of DISI. Thanks to the IREM Foundation, these leaders were granted an opportunity to attend the Global Summit in San Francisco. They were also paired with mentors or industry peers who provide additional support for career advancement as they navigate the intricacies of the property management industry and their individual workplaces.

Last year, the Diversity Advisory Board felt it was imperative to explore an increased involvement with REAP, as IREM serves as one of its Silver Level Sponsors. REAP is an industry-backed, market-driven initiative that serves as a bridge between talented minority professionals and commercial real estate companies looking for talent. It is a 10-week program offered in major markets such as New York, Washington, D.C., Atlanta, Chicago, Cleveland, Dallas and Los Angeles. We have been successful in sending representatives to these sessions to further publicize the value of the IREM membership, certifications and network. The effort has resulted in increased membership, and we continue to build on our relationship with REAP to welcome its students to our IREM family. Furthermore, we aim to provide REAP with access to IREM members who could teach a course as part of the REAP curriculum. We are ecstatic about the opportunity to support a vital industry program that bridges the gap between our organization and other phenomenal industry professionals.

Women’s contributions to the industry

The Diversity Advisory Board is thrilled to have sponsored “Breaking the Glass Ceiling: Empowering Women in Real Estate,” an impactful education session at the 2019 Global Summit in San Francisco. During this session, we welcomed author and transformational leader Anne Loehr and a panel of distinguished women leaders that included Shannon Longino, 2019 IREM CPM of the Year, in addition to members from Japan and South Africa. They shared their experiences navigating through workplaces as women in property management, offering tips on how men can support their female counterparts in the boardrooms; how companies can retain their top talent who happen to be women; how women can champion one another; and how women can confidently champion themselves in an atmosphere that may not be as welcoming of their differences.

Loehr mentioned in the session that at some level we all possess unconscious biases, whether we recognize them or not. It is our duty to keep them in check because when we inform our decisions and actions with these biases, we hinder the ability to create environments that welcome diversity and inclusivity. When we create such environments, each individual can be comfortable bringing their authentic self, which inspires them to operate to their full potential. This is what IREM is about.

 Taking the next steps

We are an organization that comprises the very best industry leaders the world has to offer. The Diversity Advisory Board is in place to ensure we are creating a space where everyone can feel encouraged to bring their brilliance to the table. Though we have made tremendous strides in diversifying our membership, we
must continue to develop our members into top-notch leaders if we intend to remain an industry powerhouse that advances the careers of our professionals.

In order to do so, we must manage how we are operating at the local and national levels to welcome diverse members and retain them. Are we employing practices that are inclusive of the entire membership? How are we championing the entire group versus select individuals? What methods of membership outreach are we using to ensure we are including a wide range of individuals? Are the first points of contact for new members operating in unconscious biases that may deter members from staying? The Diversity Advisory Board is IREM’s resource for exploring these questions, benchmarking our progress and helping move IREM forward!

Journal of Property Management

Jasmyn Sylvester, CPM, ACoM, is the 2020 chair of the IREM Diversity Advisory Board. She has been recognized within IREM as a 2018 Diversity Scholar, 2017 30 Under 30 honoree and Rising Star of the North Florida Chapter. Jasmyn currently manages a portfolio of retail properties throughout northeast Florida and southeast Georgia for The Shopping Center Group in Jacksonville, Florida.

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