I did not want to write this column. As a mixed-race person (half Trinidadian, half English), I am both black and white, but in the increasingly polarised debate over race, I am seen as neither, someone without enough skin in the game either way, the perennial outsider looking in – and I am both disturbed by what I see and uneasy writing about it.
That George Floyd’s murder should have prompted people worldwide to support Black Lives Matter and decry police violence against black people is one thing. That we should conflate what is going on in the US with black rights in the UK – and reduce it to entertainment (pop group Diversity’s BLM-inspired routine on Britain’s Got Talent) – is quite another. Racism here is different, and the way we tackle it needs to be different, too.
Obsessing over whether sportspeople should ‘take the knee’ is not the way forward. Neither is aggressively policing the language we use or gleefully embracing cancel culture. We need to move away from token gestures and inflammatory, divisive rhetoric towards honest and open dialogue. More importantly, we need to move beyond words to actions.
The unpalatable truth is that the property industry has been woefully inadequate on both fronts for too long. In a powerful piece in this week’s special diversity issue, we ask what the industry can do to address its shocking lack of ethnic diversity.
The most eloquent and insightful remarks are made by the black people we spoke to. Natasha Broomfield-Reid and Ayesha Ofori have also written comment pieces this week. I love Broomfield-Reid’s pragmatic action plan on how to embed diversity and inclusion in an organisation and Ofori’s “diversity dividend”. Both understand that the more diverse a team, the more successful it is.
That’s certainly our belief at Property Week. The team is not just ethnically diverse, it is gender diverse, with 50/50 men and women. We try to practice what we preach and I would like to see more of that in property. As we report in our cover story, just 2% of women in executive-level positions have any P&L responsibilities – read any real power. There is a long way to go on the LGBTQ+ front too, although nothing seems to have hampered Brian Bickell’s progress.
In a bid to move the dial on all aspects of diversity and sense check our content, we are establishing a diversity editorial advisory board and introducing a diversity-oriented ‘Five minutes with‘ page. If you want to join the advisory board or be interviewed for ‘Five minutes with’, we would love to hear from you.
Save the office
Ditto if you want to get involved in our ‘Save the office’ campaign, launched this week. Our latest survey reveals just 20% of people in the industry have returned to the workplace full-time, their main concern being public transport. It is little wonder some of property’s biggest names warn of the existential threat to the office. In the coming weeks, we will run a series of pieces putting the case for the office and calling on the industry to lead from the front. It is not just the office at stake, it’s the whole economy – so please lend your support.