Money & Business

Spotlight on Diversity Part 2: A Speaker Series Showcases Different Roads to Success

By / Nov 20, 2014 (iStock/Thinkstock)

To educate members of Atlanta’s commercial real estate community about the struggles and successes of some the industry’s women and minorities, the Atlanta Commercial Board of Realtors recently launched a speaker series focused on diversity.

As we explored here last week, incorporating greater diversity in an association is easier said than done.

But, whether fostering a more inclusive and supportive environment in the workplace or breaking down barriers within an industry, a true commitment to diversity can prove enlightening.

The attendees got a great opportunity to peek behind the curtain of the hill that Egbert had to climb.

That was the intent of the Atlanta Commercial Board of Realtors, which launched a speaker series last month featuring women and minority industry leaders sharing their professional journeys and all the successes and hurdles along the way.

“We were looking for opportunities to take a proactive role in creating more diversity with women and minorities within the industry,” ACBR President John O’Neill said of the series, which is part of the organization’s larger diversity initiative to dispel the idea that commercial real estate is an industry predominately composed of white men.

The initiative is about being proactive and creating awareness, O’Neill said. This motto applies to the speaker series, dubbed the Commercial Real Estate (CRE) Studio.

“It’s about creating a platform for those who are interested in the business and those who are in the business and are looking to understand from somebody who is a woman or minority that has been successful, overcome challenges and hurdles, and has been able to serve as a role model,” O’Neill said. “It’s for people who are trying to emulate that success.”

Modeled after the popular TV show Inside the Actors Studio, the CRE Studio will feature two or three interviews a year with women and minorities from the Atlanta commercial real estate community.

Dallas Smith, a current ACBR board member and the mastermind behind the CRE Studio, plays the role of James Lipton, interviewing guests and delving into some of their professional hurdles and accomplishments.

For example, during the first Studio event with Egbert Perry, CEO of Atlanta-based development and investment management firmThe Integral Group, Smith dug into Perry’s background growing up in Antigua, where he developed a strong work ethic working for his father’s business three hours before school every morning. Eventually he obtained master’s degrees in engineering and business administration from the University of Pennsylvania and built a successful career in Atlanta real estate.

“The attendees got a great opportunity to peek behind the curtain of the hill that Egbert had to climb,” said O’Neill, who equated the speaker series to fireside chats.

While the first CRE Studio session fared well by ACBR standards with more than 150 attendees, creating and sustaining similar diversity programs and initiatives with staying power requires passion and a serious commitment to change, O’Neill said.

“What I have found, and I’ve been around this topic for a while, is that some people have good intentions, but there’s very little follow through,” he said. “If we really are in what has been a predominately white-male-dominated business, if we really are going to change it, then we have to create a plan, and we have to have the courage and discipline to go execute the plan.”

Has your association developed an initiative to advance diversity within an industry? Let us know in the comments.

Katie Bascuas

Katie Bascuas is associate editor of Associations Now. More »

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