INREV, the European association for investors in non-listed real estate vehicles, has joined forces with the Urban Land Institute (ULI Europe) to publish a paper addressing the diversity, equity and inequality (DEI) challenges in the real estate sector. 

The survey included more than 435,000 full-time employees and a cross-section of the industry in terms of size, region and business classification, with 175 participants having gross assets under management of $2.4trn (€2.35trn).

The research found that DEI efforts have been catalysed by the pandemic, which has led to a greater focus on employees and increased business interest in achieving social goals.

While the majority of this year’s respondents are based in North America, the survey found that there is a growing commitment by the European real estate industry to put in place “strong policies and initiatives to address DEI needs and practices” with 92% of firms surveyed having in place formal DEI practices or initiatives to improve diversity and inclusion.

The paper combines data from a joint global survey on DEI undertaken by seven industry associations (ANREV, INREV, NAREIM, NCREIF, PREA, REALPAC and ULI) together with Ferguson Partners, collected in December 2021. It includes interviews with DEI professionals, including senior fund managers, HR practitioners, dedicated DEI experts and CEOs.

The survey said: “Improved DEI helps create real estate that is resilient and fit for purpose, as it gives businesses the ability to create an asset that is relevant to the people and communities who use them.

“Europe is leading the way when it comes to physical disability. Both visible and non-visible disabilities were addressed in 81% of European organisations’ DEI initiatives.”

Furthermore, 86% of European firms reported having initiatives in place that address race, with 71% having policies around sexual orientation, and socio-economic background was being addressed by 57% of European firms.

Many reported that socio-economic background will take greater precedence in DEI policies going forward, as recruitment is still largely led by word of mouth and employee referrals, the survey found.

Addressing gender inequality is a top priority for Europe

According to the survey: “Every European company that took part said that gender was directly targeted by its initiatives – yet only 14% of boards of directors in the region are women (Asia-Pacific 26%, North America 21%), showing that Europe is lagging behind at senior levels.

“Respondents identified potential solutions as mentoring partnerships between women at different levels; analysing people metrics; introducing flexible working; and prioritising childcare and introducing paternity leave policies.”

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