Something struck me on Grainger’s recent ‘CEO new starter meeting’ Zoom call.
While it is always a pleasure to meet our newest recruits, this meeting really brought to life for me just how far we’ve come and how the face of our industry is gradually changing.
On that call, I had the pleasure of meeting such a wonderfully diverse group of people, most new to the industry, some new to the country, and all full of enthusiasm to start working in the property sector.
During my time as BPF president, my focus was on redefining real estate, showcasing the good the industry does and positive social contribution development brings, and educating people on the far-reaching nature and endless opportunities arising from the work we do.
It’s widely acknowledged that real estate has traditionally recruited people from a very specific stream of society, creating the perception of an elitist, male-dominated group lacking diversity and with a London bias. For many, the doors have appeared closed.
For the industry to realise its full potential and be more representative of the society we serve, we all acknowledged change was necessary. Through the work of the BPF and many others in the industry, the creation of a more diverse, inclusive property industry has been at the top of the agenda for many years now, and I believe it is starting to deliver change.
Alongside that drive for change, there has been a shift in focus for the industry to be more active and hands-on with occupiers. Operational real estate businesses now represent a significant part of our property universe, which has enabled us to bring people in from other sectors. In many ways, the pandemic and its impact on certain sectors such as hospitality has accelerated this movement.
Which brings me back to the call in which I met our newest colleagues, who bring with them a wealth of knowledge and experience from sectors including hotels, cruise liners, airlines, tourism and the arts, and some of whom have arrived at Grainger from as far afield as Australia, South Africa and Dubai.
I’m proud to work in an exciting sector that is attracting people from all over the world, and while in some cases our gain is regrettably born out of another industry’s loss, I am pleased we can offer these opportunities to those who want and need them.
Of course, there’s still a long way to go and much work to be done. As a diverse group of young people build their careers in real estate, we need to make sure they continue to feel welcome and valued. At Grainger, we’re working hard to open our doors via apprenticeship schemes, our graduate programme, our diversity and inclusion network and our work with partners on engagement with schools.
While the pandemic has helped to accelerate change in the make-up of our industry for the better, to build on this, we must continue to respond with the right values and culture. We should also make sure that the way in which we recognise and reward people reflects the values we espouse and aspire to.
Helen Gordon is chief executive of Grainger