New: 2021 NAREIM Diversity & Inclusion Survey results

February 3, 2021


Women and minority professionals represented 15% of executive management positions, respectively, in real estate investment management, the 2021 NAREIM Diversity & Inclusion Survey has revealed.


The survey, conducted in partnership with the executive recruitment firm Ferguson Partners and released February 3, showed the representation of women and minority professionals within executive management increased over the past four years.


The 2021 NAREIM Diversity & Inclusion Survey showed:

  • Women represented 15% of executive management positions during 2020 – up from 12% in 2016.

  • Minority professionals (male and female) represented 15% of executive management positions during 2020 – up from 10% in 2016.


While gender and ethnicity levels for the industry as a whole increased slightly during the past four years, the NAREIM Diversity & Inclusion Survey revealed composition changes were beginning to emerge within different levels of seniority – with greater representation of women and diverse professionals, particularly at senior and executive management levels.


Gender and ethnicity, by seniority:

  • Between 2017 and 2021, when NAREIM conducted surveys on diversity and inclusion within real estate investment management, women and minority executives increased their representation, particularly at executive management and senior levels

  • Between the surveys – 2017 and 2021 – women increased their representation at executive management levels by 25%, increasing from 12% to 15%

  • Between the surveys – 2017 and 2021 – minority professionals increased their representation at executive management levels by 50%, increasing from 10% to 15%

  • Among senior level professionals, women now represent 30% of executives, up from 23% over the same period


It will take time for material demographic changes to show within the real estate investment management industry. Diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) is a long-term vision, particularly when discussing the composition of the industry as a whole, as well as ownership and executive management.


“You are not going to flip on a light switch and overnight have a materially more diverse industry, but you are seeing the right steps take place to move in that direction,” said Erin Green, managing director at Ferguson Partners.


“Material, sustained, changes will take time to show through in the data,” said Zoe Hughes, CEO of NAREIM.


“But what is clear, from the 2021 NAREIM Diversity & Inclusion Survey, is that there is a mandate and momentum for DEI to be a priority within the real estate investment management industry.”

According to the 2021 NAREIM Diversity & Inclusion Survey:


  • 96% of survey respondents said they had a DEI program or initiatives to improve DEI within their organizations.

  • 71% of participants said they dedicated staff to their DEI approach, either with dedicated employees or through committee structures with employees from across business lines, up from just 37% in 2017.


“As NAREIM members and the industry evolve their DEI approaches, the ability to track progress becomes more critical,” said Zoe Hughes. “The NAREIM Diversity & Inclusion Survey provides a baseline understanding of DEI progress to date, across the real estate investment management industry, from which organizations can measure their own organizational performance as well as share best practices with peers to advance DEI within the industry.”


Goals and outcomes


While many real estate investment managers are in the early stages of developing and enacting DEI programs, all survey respondents with DEI programs revealed that race and ethnicity were being addressed (100%) as part of their initiatives, followed by gender (97%).


The 2021 NAREIM Diversity & Inclusion Survey also highlighted the three most important outcomes real estate investment managers look to from DEI efforts.

  1. A greater number of diverse employees (78% of respondents)

  2. More diverse management team (72% of respondents)

  3. More women in leadership positions (51% of respondents)


Read more key takeaways from the 2021 NAREIM Diversity & Inclusion Survey, in accompanying press release.