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JLL UK Foundation, LSBU and DCS discuss ‘socio-economic’ diversity




In a post-George Floyd world, it is difficult to fully comprehend the scale of the challenge for ‘the fabric of our society’ amidst the wider state of growing inequality that continues to co-exist. One area of the conversation that consistently overwhelms even the most learned of policy makers, is that referred to as socio-economic diversity. But what do we really mean by ‘socio-economic diversity’ and to whom does this challenge truly relate? In truth, socio-economic diversity really doesn’t boil down to just matters of race. Over time ‘socio-economic diversity’ has, as a direct consequence of the myriad structural and systemic inequalities [inevitably highlighted by the current COVID pandemic], largely and disproportionately, affected those of a darker complexion and/or from non-traditional backgrounds.


“Just as socio-economic background affects access to the sector and progression within it, so too do gender and ethnicity. White men dominate senior positions in the sector (64% of senior positions are occupied by this group)….”


Excerpt from Executive Summary



Credit [LSBU]: Olivia Rainford and Andrea Boothman



Contacted earlier this year by the delightful duo Olivia Rainford, Director of Alumni & Development and Andrea Boothman, Fundraising & Programme Leader, both members of the ‘LSBU Student Journey’ Team, our Founder and Chair, Bola Abisogun OBE FRICS has committed to develop a genuine, solutions focussed agenda that will attempt to invoke meaningful change at the University and across the sector.


“Emerging from the interviews with employees is a strong narrative about pipeline challenges: employees believe that the lack of awareness about working in the sector, its overall image and limited entry routes combine to create a pipeline that is highly lacking in diversity….”


Excerpt from Executive Summary




Purpose of the event


  • To identify practical and measurable solutions to familiar challenges associated with diversity and inclusion in this sector;

  • To convene stakeholders from key organisations to identify practical actions relating to equality in student success, retention and progression to employment within the built environment:

  1. The role of higher education, including apprenticeships;

  2. The role of employers; and

  3. The role of professional bodies

  • To publish a short policy paper as an output, including practical and measurable recommendations for change - co-authored by the Bridge Group and LSBU and published through both organisations’ channels.

Context


  • The Bridge Group published in late 2020 the first sector-wide report on socio-economic diversity in the real estate sector. This was funded by the JLL Foundation and involved twelve leading firms and RICS. The report made a series of recommendations, many of which have already been adopted by the sector – see here.

  • LSBU has one of the most diverse student populations with regard to ethnicity and socio-economic background. The institution has been committed to advancing diversity in the built environment and architecture for many years, including most recently through the establishment of the Chancerygate Foundation bursary.

  • More generally, there is momentum building in the sector for change with respect to diversity and inclusion, not least provoked by CV-19 and the Black Lives Matter movement. LSBU and the Bridge Group are also in contact with senior leaders, including prospective philanthropists, who are keen to contribute to this.


Panel Members include:


· Nik Miller, CEO, Bridge Group

· Professor David Phoenix, Vice Chancellor, LSBU

· Claire England, Director of Diversity & Inclusion, JLL

· Bola Abisogun OBE, Chairman, DiverseCity Surveyors






“Socio-economic diversity matters. In many professional areas the Bridge Group has shown it to have a greater impact on access and progression than protected characteristics, including gender and ethnicity. We find that even where people from less advantaged backgrounds perform better, they are still more likely to get paid less for the same job and typically progress more slowly within an organisation (refer to the Bridge Group research). The overlaps and interactions between diversity characteristics are also critical to understanding how overall equality can be advanced – and the associated business benefits realised….”


Excerpt from Executive Summary



The current report (published in September 2020), was a commendable research effort by the Bridge Group, commissioned and funded by the JLL UK Foundation and supported by a number of leading surveying firms. Inclusive of industry leadership by the teams at Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors ‘RICS’ the British Property Federation ‘BPF’ and Changing the Face of Property ‘CTFOP’, it was and remain a commendable read. It goes without saying that the perspective offered is not only a clear reminder that all is not well; but more importantly, asks the question “what is the sector prepared to do about it?”.


“This research is the first of its kind in the international real estate sector – focusing on the workforce in larger, UK based real estate firms. While real estate comprises a complex mix of occupations and (public and private) organisations, we found through this study that this group is deeply lacking in diversity – and most acutely by socio-economic background….”


Excerpt from Executive Summary





Recognising the past achievements of LSBU, which have been positively welcomed and received amongst its peers, it was also recognised over several conversations, that fundamentally much more needed to be openly discussed and appropriately positioned for positive, and sustainable change.



“The real estate sector has increased its attention to diversity and inclusion in recent years, but has focused mainly on gender and sexual orientation. With respect to socio-economic diversity, the sector has not applied the same scrutiny as many other professional areas. In law, accountancy and banking there is now considerable evidence and established practice to support improvements….”


Excerpt from Executive Summary



That we are ‘raising the profile’ and attempting to conclude final preparations for the aforementioned event, during the critical Mental Health Awareness Week [10th – 16th May 2021] is also a pertinent reminder for all of us that somethings just need to be ‘openly discussed’ and fully appreciated. No one is immune from the current pressures in our ‘new normal’ but as a sector, industry, and profession, we must remain mindful of and empathetic to this most challenging of ‘hidden inequalities’.




Credit: Mental Health Foundation



“Advancing equality matters more now than ever. The combined economic effects of Brexit and Covid-19 are intensifying the societal and organisational challenges relating to equality and are heightening competition for clients, contracts and talent. Black Lives Matter has also justly concentrated focus on practically addressing racial inequalities and prejudice. Socio-economic equality is a key factor in this….”


Excerpt from Executive Summary



It is time for change, and more of a solutions focussed discussion; all predicated on the copious amounts of incontrovertible evidence; collated over decades. So do join us between 0900 and 1100 on 18th May 2021, for what will be an illuminating and insightful conversation about the ‘roadmap for change’; the same change that we all need to be an intrinsic part of.