Letter to my younger self: What I wish we’d known about diversity

In the UK, women first got the right to vote 100 years ago.  But there have been more female Prime Ministers than there are female CEOs of FTSE100 real estate companies.

I’m CEO of a large real estate company, and have worked in this industry my whole working life.  Like many in the industry I feel strongly about making it more diverse, but could I have done more?  This is what I wish I’d known when I was younger.

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You’ve got a head start

As a white, privately educated male from a middle class background, you’ve got a head start.

You’ll thrive in an industry built on relationships, where it’s all about “who you know”. Your face will fit, and it’ll be easier for you to progress.  You probably won’t notice that everyone around you has the same face.

 

There will be change…

People will question why all the faces are the same.

You’ll start to feel a little more uncomfortable in the macho culture you tolerated. You do like a laugh, but some of the jokes won’t sit quite right.

The sameness will inhibit creativity and progression, so as the world moves on, your industry won’t.

 

…but it won’t come easy

Even if you want change, you will be in the minority.

The people who can actually make change happen, the Leaders of the Industry, are less concerned. At least it seems that way.

You’ll realise that increasing diversity is not so straightforward. The very people you want to attract don’t apply – a white, male industry is not interesting anymore; and you would promote women to senior positions – but all the best talent “appears” to be male.

You’ll also learn about unconscious bias and open prejudice. The people standing in the way of change might be afraid of what change means to them.

You do not think you are senior enough to make change happen, but you are, because change comes from confronting the wrong behaviour.

 

We can learn from others

The UK can sometimes be traditional, safe and slow.

Look around. Meet people from other industries, geographies and backgrounds, who may be changing quicker.

They don’t have all the answers, and in some cases they can learn from you – but you can learn a lot from them too.

 

You’ll soon be in a position to truly affect change

Congratulations! You’re nearly at the top.  Consciously try to make a difference, leave a lasting legacy.

We can all do our part for a more inclusive environment, but now you can do more than most.

Show some courage – and some pride! That desire to make change is something you truly need to believe in and fight for throughout your career.

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I have made efforts to deliver a fairer and more equal workplace, both at JLL and previous places of work. Right now:

  • In the UK; we have more female directors than other real estate service providers
  • In EMEA; 41% of successors in our Succession Plan for the most senior roles are female
  • Globally; last year female and minority headcount grew 87% and 112% respectively (albeit from a small base)

But, of course, I don’t have all the answers. And, we have a very long way to go.  The property industry has a huge lack of diversity at senior levels.

I view the world through very different eyes than when I joined this industry. . I have a passion to bring the values from my personal life to my professional life and drive a Diversity agenda that will truly change the face of the property industry forever.  I have my wife and two daughters to thank for that. Please help me make the change.

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