Cushman & Wakefield’s BUILD (Blacks United in Leadership & Development) employee resource group (ERG) celebrated Black History Month by hosting a panel discussion with prominent leaders representing the commercial real estate (CRE) industry from various organizations. The panelists shared their personal and professional journeys with diversity, equity and inclusion.
The event, Turning Up the Volume: Our Unique Contributions to the CRE Industry, was organized by BUILD’s National Chair Jennifer Miles and broadcast to Cushman & Wakefield employees on February 17. Nadine Augusta, Cushman & Wakefield’s Chief Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Officer, moderated the discussion.
Guest panelists included Cathrine (Cat) Cotman, SVP of Corporate Real Estate at LPL Financial; Douglas Edwards, SVP of Workplace Experience at Humana; Linda Foggie, SVP and Head of the New York Office and North America Head of Corporate Occupier at Turner Townsend; and Michael Ford, CVP of Global Real Estate & Security at Microsoft. Together, they are professionally rooted in corporate real estate development, finance, architecture, construction, workplace experience strategy and more.
The theme “Turning Up the Volume” refers to elevating the voices, development and advancement of Black professionals in CRE while considering the challenges companies across the corporate landscape face in increasing diversity. In her introduction, Augusta referenced a study External Link that found only 8% of people working in corporate America are Black, and the percentage is lower in senior leadership within organizations. Additionally, Black professionals face slower career advancement across industries, including the CRE industry.
The panelists offered insights into how to elevate Black talent across industries, while also discussing their own career journeys – revealing a common thread of stepping outside their comfort zones and taking chances to pursue success and excellence in their respective fields.
Cotman discussed the importance of being proactive and intentional across the entire life cycle of attracting, recruiting, and retaining Black talent:
“The few of us that are in leadership positions in the industry need to be intentional – being visible and giving people the opportunity to be visible is important.”
Ford spoke to modeling the behaviors he wants to see from his employees and to challenging Microsoft’s providers and vendors to prioritize creating a diverse workforce:
“I’m always mentoring and coaching people within my organization, and outside of it as well. When I have open positions, I require a diverse slate of candidates to choose from, and you’ll be pleasantly surprised by what happens after that.”
Foggie pushed the conversation forward by adding the need for pay parity for Black employees:
“In our culture, many of us are raised to be thankful and grateful for what we get, but we aren’t always taught to ask for what we need. If you’re a leader and have the ability to impact what’s fair and equitable, it’s incumbent upon us to make a difference in order to get and keep talent in the business.”
Edwards encouraged employees to speak up about these issues in order to keep them at the forefront:
“Each of you has a voice. Continue to use your voice to continue this conversation. To the extent that we stop talking about this, it will always become secondary. Keep the conversation going, because when we do this, everybody wins.”
Watch highlights from the panel: