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Creating a More Diverse and Inclusive Apartment Industry: Implementing DE&I-Building Initiatives

Focusing on diversity, equality and inclusion (DE&I) benefits everyone in an organization. In part two of the “Creating a More Diverse and Inclusive Apartment Industry” series dives into some DE&I-building initiatives that can be implemented today (Read part one).

By Girish Gehani, COO, Trilogy

Creating more diverse environments is not simply the right thing to do—as noted in part one, it’s a way to drive financial performance. Industry experts also note that inclusive companies are likely to experience higher employee retention.

Actively Recruit and Mentor Diverse Talent. Don't just wait for team members of different backgrounds to apply. Require your recruiters to bring you a certain percentage of candidates from diverse backgrounds. Require that they reach out to historically black colleges and universities.

After team members from diverse backgrounds arrive at your company, mentorships can help them tremendously.

Jack Jones, Vice President of Training and Development at Gaithersburg, Md.-based Edgewood Management, has seen the benefits of mentors.

"Mentorships work best when they develop organically. Not surprisingly, that organic development is borne out of commonality, whether it be gender, race, hobbies or some other shared characteristic or experience," Jones says. "One can easily imagine the challenges that are created in providing these organic opportunities when an organization’s leadership is overwhelmingly of one group."

Take Aim at the Gender Pay Gap to Build Powerful Teams. There's been a lot of talk about the gender wage gap in the U.S. over the years. Unfortunately, it's still with us.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2018, full-time, working women earned a median of 81.6 cents to every dollar that full-time, working men earned. The National Committee on Pay Equity projects that the wage gap won't close until 2059. In commercial real estate specifically, women make, on average, 90 cents for every dollar that men make in fixed salaries, according to CREW’s 2020 benchmark study. Breaking it down further, Black women make 85 cents, Asian women make 86 cents and Hispanic/Latinx women make 80 cents for every dollar that men earn.

The time has come for apartment operators to commit to equal pay for all women.

Likewise, apartment operators need to understand that creating a workplace truly equitable for all women involves more than equal pay. Women are often the ones who step away from their careers to raise their children and are often the ones providing care for kids who are remote learning at home during the pandemic, which is forcing some to leave their jobs altogether.

Research by the U.S. Census Bureau and Federal Reserve indicates nearly 20 percent of working-age adults are unemployed because the pandemic has disrupted their childcare arrangements. Furthermore, among those unemployed, women ages 25-44 are nearly three times as likely as men to not be working because of childcare demands.

Operators need to first ensure they're doing all they can to accommodate female team members who are facing work disruptions because of demands at home and secondly, consider the fact that a female job applicant's resume may reflect the career sacrifices she's had to make to raise her children and care for her family. Operators should also consider offering paid parental leave, which helps new fathers share the child-rearing load, to both biological and adoptive parents as well.

Focus on Inclusion Training to Create More Community. Regular guidance and instruction from experts can be an effective way to create a more welcoming, nurturing workplace for everyone.

According to HR Daily Advisor, inclusion training "refers to training employees to better work with others of differing abilities, backgrounds, nationalities, genders, etc."

As the site notes, employers often view these classes as ways to reduce the chances of workplace harassment and discrimination, but the sessions also can greatly enhance employee morale and boost productivity.

This type of training also better positions onsite teams to create truly inclusive communities. Without training of this sort, well-intentioned team members can organize activities that inadvertently leave their co-workers and residents feeling left out or even insulted.

"Inclusion is more than diversifying by including people of different skin colors or heritages," says Bevan White, Vice President of Marketing at Alpharetta, Ga.-based Pegasus Residential. "Inclusion is also considering what people's interests are, their dietary restrictions at events, their comfort level with certain activities. Inclusion can be considering what music is played in your office – or at events – or what time of day events are held. We try to consider who is in our workspace on a daily basis and what may or may not promote a more comfortable and welcoming work environment."

Looking ahead, the apartment industry, like so many other industries in this country, has some work to do when it comes to diversity, equality and inclusion. But this is a challenge the industry can and must meet. The results will benefit everyone, from those in the C-Suite to onsite teams and the residents themselves.

The time for a more inclusive and equitable multifamily industry is now. Let’s get to work.

Girish Gehani is COO for Chicago-based Trilogy Residential Management.

For further resources, please visit NAA's Diversity & Inclusion page