A newly-expanded annual survey on diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) in the commercial real estate sector globally has produced its first results, showing how rare it is for women to reach the top of the industry in Europe.

However, the 2021 Global Real Estate DEI Survey also showed 92% of real estate firms around the world had a DEI programme or initiatives in place, according to the new benchmark’s collaborators.

The survey is an expansion of the real estate DEI survey created in 2017 by NAREIM and Ferguson Partners, with real estate associations ANREV, INREV, NCREIF, PREA, REALPAC and ULI having come on board in February this year to track global real estate DEI data around corporate practices, creating an international benchmark.

Although overall the global real estate industry was shown to comprise 58% men and 42% women – with differences between the three regions covered by the survey – the gap between male and female employees widens the further up the corporate hierarchy for all regions.

In Europe women currently represent just 16% of executive management and 14% of board roles, according to the poll.

In Asia-Pacific, women represent 32% of executive management position and 26% of board roles, while in North America the comparable figures are 20% and 21%, respectively.

Lonneke Löwik, CEO of INREV, the European Association for Investors in Non-Listed Real Estate, said it was “welcome evidence of progress across the whole of the industry”, but said the findings “also paint a patchy picture of attainment, and Europe has some catching up to do – specifically in terms of gender balance”.

The organisations behind the poll said it showed real estate firms were increasingly employing people dedicated to DEI, or were using DEI committees.

According to the new data, in Europe, 43% of real estate firms have staff solely dedicated to DEI, while in Asia-Pacific that figure is 33%.

In North America, 21% of firms have dedicated DEI professionals while 67% of firms have formal DEI committees responsible for developing, implementing and reviewing DEI strategies and initiatives, according to the announcement.

In both Asia-Pacific and Europe, the poll showed, about 44% of CRE firms use DEI committees.

The survey gathered 175 responses covering 435,000 employees globally and representing $2.4trn (€2.1trn) of gross assets under management, and was conducted in September and October this year.

Some 77% of participants reported data for North America, 16% for Europe and 7% on behalf of the Asia-Pacific region, according to the announcement.

In October, BentallGreenOak said it had set a target to achieve a 50/50 gender balance throughout its corporate leadership structure by the next decade.