As the summer comes to a close, I continue to find myself reeling from the turmoil that has characterized this year. We’re living through some of the most volatile and rectifying times, while simply carrying on each day for many, feels like an enormous undertaking. The global pandemic coinciding with the resounding calls to confront systemic racial injustice has forced us to reconsider the moral, social and economic fibers our nation. Our resources have been so strained, and our public trust so damaged that we’re left to question authority and who should have the right to lead us.
While the country is reckoning with the realities of a criminal justice system that has demonstrably failed to serve its citizens equitably, our cities have cried out over the growing economic disparities that disproportionately affect minority communities. DC is acutely familiar with these disparities. Though our region is often held up as a shining example of successful urban renewal, we continue to grapple with the not-so delicate balance between economic prosperity and systematic disenfranchisement.
There’s tremendous opportunity in moments like these. When there is appetite for a seismic shift, we have the ability to question and respond comprehensively. Expanding the scope of the conversation means we get to examine the interconnectivity of all factors and devise plans to facilitate real, enduring change. We’ve always been aware that piecemeal solutions and stopgap measures could not sustain us indefinitely, but the issues seemed too great to quantify before, let alone resolve. We’ve now reached that catalytic moment, where people are truly listening and participating in the dialogue, with courage and humility. This is what propels me forward at the moment.
In April, amidst civil unrest and an intensifying pandemic, I made the difficult decision to take on a new role with Equity Residential. This was a sort of a boomerang moment for me, returning to Equity where I began my career almost 12 years ago as an intern. It was a fortuitous opportunity and could not have come at a more hectic time, but I am happy to relate that it’s been a great transition, all things considered—well worth the initial adjustment period. I’ve been working from home in some capacity since March. It was particularly difficult to leave my team behind while communicating via Lifesize/Zoom/Webex/GoToMeetings, perhaps even more so trying to connect with new colleagues in the same way. But like everything else in 2020—we’re taking it one day at a time!
I continue to recognize the privileges that I have. I’m reminded that beyond my own choices, I am the culmination of generational sacrifice, fortitude, resilience and good fortune. Despite personal determination, there are extrinsic factors that persistently hinder many from achieving personal and objective success. The work today is identifying those barriers and doing what we can to break them down. I’m eager to be helping in this effort with ULI Washington’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Working Group.
I’ve been impressed by our industry’s ability and willingness to meet this moment. Many organizations have donated, solicited feedback from their teams and created internal task forces to maintain the dialogue. What more could we be doing to combat systemic injustices? We can confirm, or reaffirm a commitment to our employees, business partners, customers, vendors and the greater community that racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia and religious intolerance will not be accepted. We can make deliberate decisions to extend equity to those who have historically been locked out of economic prosperity. We can examine our employment practices—who are we hiring, how are we sourcing talent, who tends to stay and leave, how long are they staying, who is being promoted, how are we preparing our talent for those promotions, who makes up our leadership… and why?
As we continue to surge through this tumultuous time, it’s important to pay attention. We’re learning every day and the reality is, so are our leaders. We have much to glean from their personal and professional histories, their intellect, strength of character and pragmatism. The commercial real estate industry has grown since the last few downturns and so has our collective knowledge base. We’re all interpreting and applying lessons from the past to current conditions, aiming to predict and balance risk. One key distinction, we have more diversity at the decision table now than ever before and we’re decidedly adding seats. This will continue to ensure the greatest consortium of ideas to carry us forward. For now, it’s good to acknowledge our progress, while remaining steadfast in our pursuit of a more equitable future.
Asst. Vice President Investments, Equity Residential;
Former Chair, ULI Washington Young Leaders Group;
Member, ULI Washington Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Working Group
ULI Washington’s Leadership Insights column regularly features member leader’s thoughts and insights as we adjust personally and professional to a “new normal.”