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CRE Opinion

Time to Get Real About How We Approached Diversity and Inclusion

North Texas is not on-trend to meet the shifting demographics of the future workforce, says McCarthy’s Southern Region Director Kamecia Mason.

I was invited to write this blog post in December 2019. I was excited. All the construction industry outlooks were promising. I was planning for a successful 2020 outreach and inclusion strategy implementation and had more executive support than I had experienced my entire career. There were going to be things to write about—The connectivity between growing minority and women-owned businesses and sustaining healthy industry growth in Dallas is compelling. That landscape is complex, and our industry needs to make measurable advances in this imperative.

But then COVID hit.

Initially, there were more questions than answers. One thing was sure, small businesses—especially minority-owned businesses—would be critically wounded. What would we do to help?

Kamecia Mason

And then Breanna Taylor.

She was a 25-year-old emergency room technician during an unprecedented global health crisis. She was struck by eight bullets when police served a no-knock search warrant—a policy that was unanimously banned by the Louisville Metro Council in direct response to Breanna’s death.

Since my dad isn’t reading this, I can admit to having an ex a bit on the shady side. I was young. It was a prototypical good girl, bad boy kind of a thing. It was an immature moment and inconsequential to who I am.

For Breanna, having a shady ex was a death sentence.

Followed by Amaud Arbery.

My husband and I love to explore new neighborhoods. Dallas properties have a track record of being one of the best long-term real estate investments in the U.S. It’s common to see people exploring new residential construction sites.

But Amaud… he wasn’t allowed to be curious or run.

Then George Floyd set the world on fire.

In 2014, I purchased a t-shirt in support of Eric Garner’s family. It said, “I Can’t Breathe.” I was not supposed to ever need that shirt again. But for 8 minutes and 46 seconds, George Floyd had a knee on his neck saying those same words, at times desperately calling out for his mom who had passed away.

My mom died two months before my 19th birthday. Since then, there have been two occasions where the only thing I could muster in my intensely fragile state was, “I just want my mom.” To hear him say those words…the gravity of that cry rests with me.

In the days that have followed, there has been an awakening for some, more corporate statements than I can count, city and county declarations of racism as a public health crisis.

And listening.

If you’ve made it this far, that means you’re still listening, but perhaps wondering what any of this has to do with the broader real estate industry—development, design, and construction.

Everything!

In 2018, the AGC released its business case for diversity and inclusion. As an industry, there have been slow, often resisted initiatives put in place to help change how we approached diversity and inclusion. The bottom line is, we are not on-trend to meet the shifting demographics of the future workforce.

As we all compete for the best and the brightest talent, our ability to have diversity and be inclusive, is being evaluated. More than that, we must demonstrate a track record of delivering on belonging. We must understand how to differentiate between each of those concepts. Diversity is the facts, a numerical expression of who makes up an organization. Inclusion is an active decision to involve and empower. Belonging is the feeling, the response to culture. We need to take a holistic approach to create inclusive organizations. This includes evaluating our recruiting sources, talent pools, succession plans, and board composition.

A recent Cone Communication study revealed the following about millennial job seekers:

  • 76 percent consider a company’s social and environmental commitments before deciding where to work.
  • 64 percent will not take a job if a potential employer doesn’t have strong corporate responsibility practices.
  • 75 percent would take a pay cut to work for a socially responsible company.

Similarly, if we acquire great talent, but our actions do not mirror the sale, we can lose our talent to a competitor or new industry sector.

Before joining McCarthy, I evaluated how well I could fit within the culture. I made calls, did research, but when I walked in for the interview and passed an African American woman with a free-standing afro in all its natural, gravity-defying glory, I knew I was going to enjoy the conversation whether I got the job or not. I was not disappointed.

We had a real discussion on inclusion and the need to get genuine about increasing the capacity of diverse businesses. From the moment I came on board, my expertise has been valued. My opinion is respected and expected. That sense of belonging continues as I and others have navigated emotionally taxing waters.

A few days after George Floyd’s death, my manager and regional president, Joe Jouvenal, asked me how I was holding up. I thought I was holding it together. I was not in a new territory. But I was wrong. I am now mom to three kind, smart, silly little boys. I am not sure what came first, words or tears. I didn’t expect to say, “No, I’m not okay,” and I certainly didn’t expect to cry. I was able to have that visceral response because that was not our first conversation about family, race, or culture.

Get to know your teams. Understand some of your key members are not okay. Provide the support they might need. Understand, respect, and accept if they are not ready to talk or be a resource. If you’re searching for ways to broaden your perspective, explore here. If this moment needs to be your pivot point, pivot strategically.

McCarthy has taken the Culture of Care Pledge and realigned resources to execute our Diversity and Inclusion strategy better.  We still have work to do, but we are committed to the journey.

Your strategy may not look like ours, but the industry needs us all to have one.

Kamecia Mason is the Diversity Director of McCarthy’s Southern Region.

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