Our Mission

Learn who we are and how we serve our community


Meet our leaders, trustees and team


Developing the next generation of talent


Covering the latest news and trends in the marketplaces industry

Industry Insights

Check out wide-ranging resources that educate and inspire

Government Relations & Public Policy

Learn about the governmental initiatives we support


Connect with other professionals at a local, regional or national event

Virtual Series

Find webinars from industry experts on the latest topics and trends

Professional Development

Grow your skills online, in a class or at an event with expert guidance

Find Members

Access our Member Directory and connect with colleagues

ICSC Networking Platform

Get recommended matches for new business partners

Student Resources

Find tools to support your education and professional development

Become a Member

Learn about how to join ICSC and the benefits of membership

Renew Membership

Stay connected with ICSC and continue to receive membership benefits


Black leaders say they need more allies in the C-suite

July 1, 2020

Retail real estate needs more Black leaders, and it’s up to existing executives to seek out and nurture that new talent if they want to successfully adapt to a fast-changing economy and industry, panelists said during an ICSC Race, Equity and Inclusion Forum yesterday on LinkedIn Live.

Black people represent approximately 2 percent of the executive leadership teams and boards at the 34 U.S. publicly traded REITs, said Raider Hill Advisors vice president of property management Joshua Bruff. For comparison, Black people made up 12.6 percent of the U.S. population in 2016, according to the Census Bureau. “In my 15 years in the industry, I have met one Black executive working for a public company,” he said.

The C-suites of commercial real estate organizations need to consider diversity as a value proposition, said GL Blackstone Associates principal G. Lamont Blackstone. “They need to see diversity as a valuable resource that can enhance performance. Do commercial real estate organizations truly value diversity and recognize the role it has in terms in improving performance? If they do then they can start at the very top, incorporating diversity into the board of directors and the C-suite.”

Black employees need mentors and leaders that value diversity to be successful, especially in an industry that values risk taking and entrepreneurial spirit, Bruff said. “Oftentimes when I was coming up through the real estate industry, I was told not to push back against my superiors. ‘Don’t be aggressive. Don’t be demanding.’"

“In my 15 years in the industry, I have met one Black executive working for a public company”

As a result of being silenced, Bruff lacked confidence for many years. "I couldn’t help but feel that it was due to my color, due to my background and due to the fact that I didn’t look like a lot of my counterparts and my superiors," he said. "Even when promoted, I felt like an imposter because the years leading up to it, I was never given the confidence to fully lead and be fully direct even though I was managing high-level assets.”

Bruff said he was lucky to find a network of high-powered mentors and sponsors to help him succeed. “You have to have allyship at the top because you’re going to have middle managers and others who see you as the diversity hire. It has to be the people that make the decisions that are really going to make tangible ways to improve our opportunity within the industry.”

Blackstone advised Black professionals seeking Black mentors and sponsors to join Project REAP, a nonprofit that connects minority professionals with commercial real estate firms seeking talent.

“When we’re experiencing the most disruption that this industry has had in 50 years, it’s essential that we have top decision-making teams that are not homogenous in terms of looking at the world through the same model,” he said. “A lack of diversity is tantamount to driving down the highway in heavy traffic exclusively looking in the rearview mirror.”

Follow ICSC’s LinkedIn page to stay abreast of future discussions on race, equity and inclusion.

Watch the full discussion below on desktop. Content begins at 2 minutes 50 seconds. View on a mobile device here.

By Brannon Boswell

Executive Editor, Commerce + Communities Today

Small Business Center

ICSC champions small and emerging businesses in getting from business plan to brick-and-mortar.

Learn more