Having worked with a wide spectrum of property and construction professionals over the past 15 years, I have seen some of the best, and worst, examples of best practice in terms of diversity.

Jen Lemem

Jen Lemem

Where diversity is celebrated and encouraged in business, there is genuine innovation, passion for work and high-quality outcomes for clients. Where it is not, there are significant impacts on employee wellbeing and, in the long run, a loss of some of the best talent in the industry.

In its simplest form, diversity is the full spectrum of human differences. This is defined by the protected characteristics under the Equality Act 2010 to include age, gender reassignment, marriage or civil partnership status, being pregnant or on maternity leave, disability, race, religion or belief, sex or sexual orientation.

But firms must work to ensure that diversity does not just become lip service. Treating diversity as simply a tick box or policy exercise is a definite ‘no’.

Having a robust policy on diversity in the workplace helps set up a firm for success. The policy should be written by a diverse range of people, including senior management and employees. It should provide practical guidance for everyone and be very easy to implement across the business, whether in a small project team, in a board meeting or across multiple departments.

A good policy on diversity becomes a truly defining policy when it is shared, celebrated and used across a business. Here are some of the best examples of promoting and celebrating diversity I have seen, with some tips for getting things right.

Many firms celebrate diversity days and months, such as Pride, International Women’s Day, National Inclusion Week and Black History month. This can bring employees together, celebrate differences and draw focus to why diversity is so important.

However, employees are often left thinking, ‘what now’ once the day or month is over. Raising the theme of diversity across the year is, therefore, extremely important – whether it is through employee networks, being an ally or holding one-off events. This avoids the extremely isolating thought of ‘I only matter for part of the year’, and promotes the feeling ‘I matter all year long’.

Diversity can be isolating where it is not celebrated. Many will have faced, at some point during their careers, the feeling that they need to keep their personal and professional lives very separate.

Not only does this have a terrible impact on wellbeing and mental health, but it can affect performance at work. Being able to be ‘us’ at work means that we have the full spectrum of emotions, skills and confidence at our disposal – whether this is dealing with a difficult negotiation, an unhappy client or a challenging instruction.

Being treated with respect is a basic human right, and this should be a robust message communicated by every business. Things like being able to announce getting married to your same sex partner on a company notice board or being able to work in a space that facilitates neurodiversity can make all the difference.

Diversity should not be a limiter – it should open up the world. This includes considering opportunities we never thought we would have access to, or coming from a non-traditional background and still being able to progress a promising career in property.

Promoting property as a career in schools can be a great way to increase diversity in the industry. This shows students that anyone can become a property professional, as long as they have the motivation and enthusiasm to do so.

A diverse range of individuals going into schools can help achieve this, as well as any marketing material or firm brochures using imagery of a diverse workforce. When we see people who we feel are ‘like’ us, we become more confident in pursuing that goal. This applies to any documentation a firm publishes, including pitches, presentations and client proposals.

Diversity is not optional,  it is an essential part of celebrating who we are in all areas of our lives. Incorporated well in the workplace, it brings many benefits, not just to the business, but to us as humans who feel included and respected.

Jen Lemen is a chartered surveyor and co-founder of Property Elite