The world of commercial real estate is traditionally seen as testosterone-fuelled, with long hours, tough targets and fierce competition. But JLL – a global investment management firm which specialises in property sales – was determined to initiate a culture change that would make women feel at home in its Asian offices. Soma Mohanty Garg, head of HR for Asia Pacific, tells People Management how they did it.
What was the driver for prioritising diversity across the business? Ten years ago, 80 per cent of our sales were local. But with globalisation, we need very different skillsets. We have moved into sectors like healthcare and education, where our partners and customers are becoming more diverse and are asking their suppliers to become more diverse too.
How did you set about addressing gender imbalances? The first thing is to ask ‘why is this good for business?’ We used the views of our customers, and we looked at the research, including the fact that diverse teams are 30 per cent more successful when it comes to pitching for new business. That really helped people start to understand what we wanted to do. We began the process by talking about culture, but soon we were training people on unconscious bias and how it affects recruitment and talent selection. The next part was about visibility – we looked at women who were already successful in the business and raised their media profile, as well as getting them involved in coaching and mentoring opportunities. And our reward package now includes better maternity leave and benefits.
How did employees feel about being confronted with their unconscious biases? For me, that was the most amazing part of the whole journey. We got them together in small groups, and of course they were quiet at first – but soon their whole lives were unravelling in front of us. There were a lot of ‘aha’ moments.
Has it worked? We’re seeing women coming up through the ranks and we’re seeing much more diverse teams, so I’d say it has. Talking about diversity is becoming natural, particularly among our senior leaders. But we want to take things a lot deeper. External engagement is the next thing for us. We want to be the best place in real estate for women to work, and we want everyone to know about that.
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