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Remote Work’s Moment Could Lead CRE Firms To Diverse Talent


Patrick Sisson,

Like the tech industry, commercial real estate has an ongoing diversity problem. As a Bisnow investigation discovered, of the hundreds of C-suite roles in 68 top CRE firms, just 93 are filled by people of color, while 10 of these companies, including Simon Property Group, Digital Realty Trust and Cresa, have no people of color in their C-suites or on their boards at all.

And like tech, CRE could help overcome this challenge by turning today’s evolving norms around remote work to its advantage.

A new study featured in the Harvard Business Review suggested that firms begin widening their geographic pool of applicants. Tech is especially concentrated in a handful of metros; 75% of venture capital comes from New York, California and Massachusetts, and 90% of growth in the “technology-intensive innovation sector” between 2015 and 2017 happened in just five cities. That leads to hiring and networking that’s equally limited to a select set of ZIP codes.

But with norms around working from home rapidly evolving, now is the time to tap into a much wider network of potential hires to increase the potential for more diversity. The study, Imagining a Digital Economy for All 2030, or IDEA 2030, analyzed two metrics, the “tech talent diversity score” (comparing the number of tech degree holders in underrepresented groups to their percentage of the population at large) and digital readiness score (key attributes such as ease of working from home and access to public services online).

Researchers then mapped those scores against the cost of living and the proportion of the state’s workforce in the tech industry. The analysis resulted in a list of states — Georgia, Texas, Delaware, Virginia, Connecticut and Maryland — that have high tech diversity scores, low cost of living, and don’t contain any of the aforementioned industry hot spots.

The report recommended finding metros in those states, such as Atlanta, and recruiting talent and allowing people to work from home or via satellite offices, creating a talent pipeline and network for future hires. A similar analysis, which looked at where diverse talent resided outside of larger business hubs, or at least outside the main offices of a large national firm, could lead to a larger potential pool of diverse hires, and lead to the attraction and retention of new talent.

While some CRE roles may be difficult for a remote workforce, there’s also an evolving number of tech and analyst roles that could be handled outside of the main office.


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