A diverse workforce will help marketplaces industry players outgrow their competitors, speakers said at the recent ICSC@Carolinas event.
“We have a long-term diversity problem,” ICSC president and CEO Tom McGee said during a keynote. “We don’t have as many young people in the industry as we would like.” That’s why the ICSC Foundation launched its Talent Incubator Project: to use scholarships, mentorships and internships to help more students succeed marketplaces industry.
Diverse workplaces foster innovation and attract more business, said ICSC chair Glenn Rufrano. Tenants that are growing don’t want to work with landlords that don’t have formal diversity programs in place, he said during the keynote. “Look at New York City. Companies like Facebook and Google expand in New York City because it has the most diverse employment base. Our tenants are thinking about diversification of their workforce and customers as they take space from everyone here.”
Diverse firms are more profitable and more effective, said North Carolina Central University School of Business dean Anthony Nelson. He attended the conference in part to discuss the ICSC Foundation and Rufrano’s $100,000 contribution to support a new real estate program within the Master of Business Administration program at the school. ICSC also will grant NCCU students complimentary student membership, which includes access to mentorships, professional development opportunities like Argus training and access to potential speakers for campus seminars.
Rufrano contributed additional funds individually and will serve on the NCCU Real Estate Advisory Board. Other donors include CrossMarc Services president John Crossman, American Tower Corp., Continental Realty Corp., JLL, McDonald’s Corp., USAA Real Estate and Walker & Dunlop.
“There are a lot of uncertainty and big problems out there that you need to bring a lot of new ideas to,” he said. “It’s a different world we are living in.”
Attracting diverse workers is about more than offering a competitive salary, Nelson said. Students are looking for more purpose than profit, and they’re looking to make an impact on the world in which they live, he said. “It’s incumbent on us to make sure that once they get in the market, they have assignments and responsibilities where they can say they made a difference and had an impact,” Nelson said.
Working with educational institutions to establish formal real estate programs is important to burnish the credibility and prestige of the industry to attract more young people, Rufrano added. “We need everyone to know that we finance and build the structures that house the world.”
By Brannon Boswell
Executive Editor, Commerce + Communities Today