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Versed in Diversity

Tips to start the inclusivity conversation at your workplace

By Roberta “Byrdy” Kelley

Diversity continues to challenge the corporate workplace even today. People from different cultures require different things from their places of work to be successful. Whether the organization is a real estate company or a professional organization, fostering diversity at all levels deserves the attention of senior leadership and across-the-board support. Recognizing that diversity is more than race, leadership should pay attention to the organizational culture, create a welcoming and inclusive environment, and provide diversity training.

From a personal perspective, I walk into many meetings at my workplace and my local association and I am the only one who looks like me. At the IREM Global Summit last year, I attended a session titled “Diversity 2.0: Moving from Rhetoric to Action” and listened as an engaging group of panelists discussed the importance of diversity and inclusion in the workplace. The main takeaway from that session: Diversity is essential to all real estate organizations and is simply good business—and that includes not just racial and ethnic diversity but diversity based on gender and sexual orientation as well.

One of the panelists, Mary Jo Eaton, president emeritus of CBRE, AMO, gave great advice on how to start a conversation on this topic with senior leadership. A longtime champion for diversity and inclusion in the workplace, Eaton’s suggestion to propose a diversity and inclusion task force, complete with a clear mission statement and annual agenda, resonated with me.

For anyone who is thinking about taking the first step and is ready to propose such a task force to your company’s leadership, as I have done at my company, here’s my advice: Start small, but think big. Starting small means taking simple steps so you can gain traction early. Thinking big means getting creative and thinking outside the box. Ask your company’s human resource department for permission to start a diversity and inclusion task force by sharing why such an initiative is important and how the task force will benefit your workplace by making it more diverse. As last year’s panelists said, diversity is good for business. After all, heterogeneous workforces are stronger and more adept than homogenous work environments. And be sure to collaborate with your company’s C-suite for encouragement, guidance and perhaps even mentorship. They may be aware of a similar company initiative that is already in place or one from the past that had been shelved and can be resurrected.

Once you are given the green light to move forward, spread the word. Send out an intercompany email asking for volunteers who share your vision. During your first task force meeting, establish simple goals with clear metrics and measures and realistic implementation strategies. One of my personal strategies is to encourage colleagues within my company or the professional organizations I participate in to always think of how to include diversity of thought and participation on committees and work groups they establish—and I do the same.

The next time you go to a meeting at your workplace or in organizations you belong to, look around the room. Are you the only one who looks like you? Do you see anyone who doesn’t look like you? Think of what you can do to be the change needed in your office or association—how you can start a movement that will create a more diverse professional and work environment and position you as a leader in promoting that change.  

Read More : Diversity & Inclusion Succession Initiative (DISI)

Journal of Property Management

Roberta “Byrdy” Kelley, CPM, a property manager with Lincoln Harris in Dallas, serves on IREM’s Diversity Advisory Board and actively works to bring the topic of diversity to the forefront in her workplace.

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Tips to start the inclusivity conversation at your workplace