“It’s not about lowering the bar; it’s about opening the gate”

JLL in collaboration with Real Estate Balance talk Black Talent in Real Estate

JLL hosted an event on 2 November 2022 in collaboration with Real Estate Balance, to explore how the sector can successfully attract, retain and progress Black talent. The discussion was opened by Simon Peacock, UK Board member and Head of UK Regions and Clients, who emphasised the urgency of this issue, and spoke about how JLL are working to do their part to shift the dial, for example by voluntarily publishing the ethnicity pay gap and setting diversity targets. Simon expressed that “as a sector, we must do more to hire people focussing on their transferable skills rather than just experience, so we can hire greater diversity at all levels into the industry rather than simply trading diversity between property firms”

Research by Green Park in 2019 showed that out of the FTSE 100, construction and property had the lowest ethnic minority representation amongst their leadership pipeline, at 5.1% - only 1.2% of which were Black. The lack of availability of wider data was highlighted as an issue in itself - a blocker to monitoring the progress of Black talent within the sector.

Those who attended the event enjoyed an open and passionate discussion chaired by Saira Choudhry, Partner at PwC and REB Board member. The panel comprised: 

  • Blessing Buraimoh, Head of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion, EMEA Workforce Advisory at JLL
  • Gemma Webb, Group Head of Diversity & Inclusion at Barratt Developments
  • Kevin Boakye, Talent Acquisition and DEI Specialist at Hines and REB NextGen committee member
  • Natalie Carter, Senior Associate at Greenberg Traurig

It was clear hearing from these experts, some of whom also have a lived experience of being Black within the industry, that barriers continue to exist. These range from systemic biases and differences in cultural norms, to the challenge of breaking into an industry which traditionally attracts those who have been encouraged by their networks – mostly White and male.

As the conversation evolved, solutions were debated. A few of the key takeaways regarding attracting Black talent into the sector, were for organisations to:

  • Strengthen diversity data collection to assess where gaps are, specifically regarding Black talent, so that action can be targeted effectively.
  • Reach out to Black communities - not solely to students and prospective applicants, but also to Black parents to change perceptions about the sector and raise awareness of the stability and potential of careers within it. 
  • Implement recruitment processes which have inclusivity built in and are as free from bias as possible.

The panel agreed that retention and progression often presented an even greater challenge. There should be a focus on changing systems and cultures to be more welcoming of Black colleagues:

  • Cultivate active allies for Black talent – those who are willing to call out unwanted behaviour when they see it, and are also comfortable advocating for Black talent to progress.
  • Support Black talent to take advantage of informal or formal mentoring and sponsorship opportunities.
  • Encourage your workforce to be more comfortable embracing other cultures and not to be afraid of asking considerate questions - enabling Black colleagues to feel more comfortable bringing their authentic selves to work.

As Blessing summarised, “there is a huge gap between ambition and actions. We have a huge opportunity to do more here. This conversation is one step, but there is a lot more that needs to be done.” To contribute towards closing this gap, the JLL DEI Consulting practice is launching Mentoring with Purpose - a new Cross-Company Mentoring Circles programme for ethnic minority talent in the Built Environment. Please contact Blessing Buraimoh ( or Meera Roy-Chowdhury ( if your organisation may be interested in taking part, or if you would like to discuss your broader DEI Strategy.