On 25 May 2020, the televised murder of American George Floyd by police officers while in custody, received global attention and raised awareness of the structural racism and oppression present in our societies to this day. The Black Lives Matter movement has sparked anti-racist demonstrations worldwide.
Black Lives Matter and Black Lives Matter in real estate.
The real estate industry has a duty to tackle racism suffered by Black employees and Black communities and ensure that real estate companies are providing services and delivering projects which are fully representative of the diverse communities living and operating in our environment.
Over a series of RE:Women Black Lives Matter Roundtable discussions with multidisciplinary, multi-ethnic, women and men, who are business owners, and senior leaders in large companies, we discussed the issues Black people face in the real estate industry as individuals, within companies and organisations, in the wider community and in the physical built environment. During our discourse we discovered the overwhelming volume of previous work that has already been done without implementation of recommendations.
Many surveys and reports on diversity and inclusion in the workplace have been issued over the last few years. In particular, RE:Women highlights the recommendations outlined in the McGregor-Smith Review issued in 2017. As stated in this review:
“The time for talking is over. Now is the time to act”.
We invite the real estate industry to take the lead on creating and promoting an anti-racist built environment.
This manifesto was developed following the discussion of several roundtables and it addresses anti-racist measures to be implemented to ensure the health, safety and wellbeing of Black people in the built environment.
RE:Women Statement For an Anti-Racist Built Environment
With this Statement we commit to making changes, and taking actions that bring about sustainable, tangible results for a fair, productive, efficient, industry that reflects our multi-ethnic society.
1. We have a right to feel safe
We have a right to work in a safe environment.
All employers have a duty of care to ensure the health, safety and welfare of their employees at work.
Discrimination against Black employees at work (whether directly or indirectly or through victimisation or harassment) creates an unsafe environment for those employees and significantly affects their mental wellbeing.
The duty of care of an employer towards Black employees together with its obligation to comply with the Equality Act 2010 must lead to a zero-tolerance policy against racist acts, behaviours and language at the workplace.
- Eradicate outright racism in the workplace
- Establish anti-racism policies and monitor and enforce their compliance on a consistent basis across all levels of the workplace
- Ensure that they put in place systems and procedures allowing Black employees to report and escalate incidents of racist behaviours without fear of retribution and with known and documented repercussions for offenders
2. We have a right to be ourselves and not be judged
Our race, the colour of our skin, the texture of our hair must not be barriers to our career progression.
We have a right to bring our full authentic selves to work.
We have a right to thrive and succeed in the workplace without compromising how we look.
The workplace must be an inclusive environment for Black employees from the recruitment process, through retention and promotion.
- Be comfortable to talk about race in the workplace and create safe environments for discussions
- Conduct unconscious bias training and monitor the progress and the success of such training
- Put in place policies which tackle and address micro-aggressions and micro-assaults against Black employees in the workplace
- Celebrate the benefits of having a diverse workforce
- Remove policies which support anti-Blackness (including policing hairstyle or imposing work uniforms which compromise the health and wellbeing of its employees)
3. We have a right to be socially and economically equal
The legacy of slavery is still with us today and reflected in racial inequalities which affect our social and economic rights of equality.
We have a right to equal pay, equal benefits, equal access to training, personal development and promotion across the many hierarchical levels in the workplace, from entry to C-Suite.
We have a right to access public and private procurement contracts, and be represented in the winning panels, as we are then finally fairly judged, without bias or racial profiling.
We deserve the recognition for our hard work and celebration of our economic successes, instead of being viewed as suspicious and undeserved.
- Pay Black people equally, including the equal distribution of benefits, such as pension, bonus, holiday entitlements, stock options and everything else
- Report their ethnic pay gap, by ethnicity and gender, and put in place a plan to reduce the gap.
- Hire, train, develop and promote Black employees throughout the organisation, ensuring their fair representation in all hierarchical levels, including the executive board
Public and private sector purchasing departments should:
- Ensure their supply chain and procurement process have a fair representation of Black-owned businesses or organisations committed to the Black agenda, with special attention to businesses run by Black women
- Align their Social Responsibility campaign to support:
- The Black youth in schools and universities by way of providing scholarships, mentorships, apprenticeships, paid work experience and first jobs
- The Black people in their 30’s , 40’s and older who want to further their education and pursue a new career opportunity in a better-quality job
- Require that their senior managers support non-profit organisations which deal with issues of the Black community
4. We have a right to demand change and voice our dissatisfaction with progress
For too long, Black people have suffered with the legacy of slavery, one of the most egregious crimes against humanity. The consequent structural racism is pervasive in our societies to this day.
We are sick and tired of this situation. We are sick and tired that Black people are being:
- Killed at the hand of law-enforcement officers,
- Racially profiled for searches, fines and arrests by the police,
- Disproportionally flagged for fraud in university applications
- Overlooked in healthcare as pregnant women
- Worse off than their white counterparts
- Mistreated and left behind.
We are sick and tired and now it is the time to repair the wrong; and we demand change.
- Establish clear, well publicised company strategies and action plans to tackle their inequalities
- Publish their timeframes and targets for change with key persons responsible and accountable
- Report on progress of change and consequences should targets not been met
- Implement legislation that obligate companies to report ethnic pay gap by gender
- Enact legislation that award government contracts to companies that are ethnically diverse and subscribers of the Black agenda
5. We have a right to live in a built environment that includes the needs and desires of the Black community
At the moment, the built environment is a source of stress for many Black people, especially the children and younger generations. In the public space is where the police disproportionately target Black men, in the public space is where they are confronted with their lack of green space and access to appropriate healthcare. It is the public space that remind them of inequalities, because to access better public services or retail, they must commute to areas where the white people live.
We have a right to access good quality spaces, housing conditions, schools, hospitals, to being treated equally and with dignity.
We have a right to feel safe in the built environment, without the fear of racist acts or being racially profiled.
- Ensure that their business plans do not suffer from racial bias, such as investment in white-only areas or valuations that have any sort of Black discount
- Provide Black role models speaking about careers in the built environment, and mentoring on work experience programmes
- Have professional teams that reflect the population breakdown of the areas they are investing in, developing, managing or serving
- Invest in local areas with a high percentage of Black population, creating job and education opportunities for upward social mobility
- Fund and support community organisations that are fighting racial inequalities in the built environment
- Monitor the distribution of public goods in the built environment that is fairly distributed to the Black community, e.g. access to quality housing, healthcare and green spaces
- Protect Black people from the structural racism existent in the built environment and all other public spheres
The Role of RE:Women in shaping an anti-racist built environment
RE:Women, as a group of developers, planners, architects, investors, landlords, surveyors, valuers, engineers, builders, lawyers, consultants, researchers, academics and more, we understand the needs of the stakeholders in the built environment. We are ourselves decision-makers in many real estate companies. But we cannot do this alone, we need the real estate industry to come together to tackle the racism of the built environment and the racism still existent within companies operating in our industry.
Listen from Simone de Gale, Chartered Architect, Founder and CEO of Simone de Gale Architects why this manifesto is important to tackle the structural racism in our industry:
Therefore, as a first step towards addressing the structural racism of our society,
We are asking companies and government bodies operating in the built environment to commit to change by:
Making the built environment a more representative sector
- Active recruitment and promotion of Black people
- Ensuring that all levels of the organisation have a fair representation of Black employees
Educating and empowering people. Training to enhance awareness
- Mandatory unconscious bias training and monitoring of biases
- No confusion on what is considered racist comments or behaviours
- Elevating Black voices by creating a safe space for discussion and reporting
Leading by example. Managers as allies
- Reverse mentoring from Black employees
- Senior managers to act as trustees or NED in organisations dealing with the issues of the Black community
- Asking employees to self-declare and publish salary / bonus data divided by gender and ethnic group – the ‘ethnic pay gap’
Ready to help shape an anti-racist built environment?
Become a RE:Women Anti-Racism Signatory
If your organisation wants to follow the RE:Women Manifesto for an Anti-Racist Built Environment and become a signatory, please fill in the form below and we will be in touch.