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South Africa's commercial real estate industry’s journey towards inclusiveness – challenges, and...

As South Africa celebrates Human Rights Day, it's an opportune time to examine the strides made toward inclusiveness in the country's commercial real estate industry.

Progress has undoubtedly been made as companies place greater priority on diversity and initiatives promoting women's advancement. More businesses have gained a better understanding of the clear advantages of having a workforce that represents diverse backgrounds, generations, and cultures.

Yes, challenges such as discrimination and inequality persist, and there are always improvements to be made and work to be done -- there is still a long way to go on this journey. To make good progress, we need to move forward together.

This can be achieved with more proactivity, partnering with organisations promoting diversity, establishing metrics to measure progress, and sharing best practices and key learnings with other industries.

While greater diversity and inclusion are a collective effort, we all must do our bit. Progress made in our own commitment to inclusion and diversity at Cushman & Wakefield | BROLL is actively encouraged and purposely measured throughout our business cluster. We are particularly proud to be 5% black women-owned and maintain a Level 1 Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment rating.

Commitment to change, backed by intentional action – both collaborative and organisation-specific – will drive South Africa's commercial real estate industry to continue to evolve towards greater inclusiveness and lead the global property industry.

Increasing diversity in commercial real estate

One notable example of progress towards inclusiveness in commercial real estate is the emergence of companies that prioritise diversity and actively seek out candidates from diverse backgrounds. For instance, We are very proud of Sarah Shezi who hails from our Occupier Services division, stepping into this leadership role! Sarah has recently been appointed President of the IREM (Institute of Real Estate Management) South African Gauteng Chapter.

Creating opportunities for women in commercial real estate

Another example of progress towards inclusiveness is the growing number of women entering the field and occupying leadership positions. Some organisations have established initiatives to promote the advancement of women in commercial real estate, such as the Women's Property Network (WPN) and the South African Real Estate Investment Trust Association's (SA REIT) Women's Forum. These initiatives provide networking opportunities, mentorship, and leadership training to support women's career development in the industry.

Nurturing and attracting diverse talent in commercial real estate

Ensuring a more diverse and inclusive commercial property sector starts long before the employment stage. Attracting talent from a variety of backgrounds begins with equal access to quality education, which is reinforced with opportunities to gain industry experience. The many educational initiatives, from bursary programmes such as those of the South African Property Owners Association (SAPOA) to internships and entrepreneur and enterprise development initiatives, like Property Point, which are sponsored by the industry and its component companies, are reasons to celebrate. These vital contributions to the future should be sustained, supported and grown so that new generations of young people are enthused and equipped for a career in commercial real estate.

Co-creating a more inclusive future in commercial real estate

To overcome these challenges, the commercial real estate industry in South Africa needs to take a more proactive approach to promote inclusiveness. This could involve partnering with organisations that promote diversity and inclusion, such as the South African Human Rights Commission, to develop training programmes and policies that address discrimination and inequality in the industry.

Tracking inclusivity metrics in commercial real estate

Valuable measures have been established for, for example, the percentage of women and people of colour in leadership positions. An important step is the continued tracking of key indicators such as the percentage of women and people of colour in leadership positions; the industry can hold itself accountable and identify areas for improvement.

Leading by example in commercial real estate

The commercial real estate industry can promote thought leadership by sharing best practices and success stories with one another, as well as other enterprises and organisations. Commercial real estate companies can encourage greater adoption of similar policies and practices by showcasing the benefits of diversity and inclusion in the industry.

On the ongoing journey towards inclusiveness in commercial real estate in South Africa, there is a reason for optimism. By promoting diversity and inclusion, the commercial real estate industry in South Africa stands to become more innovative, effective and profitable while also contributing to a more just and equitable society.


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