The biggest minority segment in the US represents just 6% of industry
It would be an understatement to say commercial real estate is a big industry, given its collective dollar value of some $16 trillion. Yet despite its astonishing size, the industry has scarce Latino representation – some 6% of the total workforce.
Timed for Hispanic Heritage Month, CBRE – the global leader in CRE services and investments with more than 105,000 professionals in over 100 countries – spotlighted three successful people who have beaten the odds while simultaneously shedding light on the importance of diversity.
But first, those stats: Despite being the largest minority group by population in the US, only 6% of them are among the CRE workforce, according to CREDiversity.com. What’s more, Latino males comprise a mere 2.9% of the industry’s senior executive ranks, and Latinas making up less than 1%. That dearth is against a massive backdrop: According to the National Association of Real Estate Investment Trusts (NAREIT), the total size of commercial real estate in the US was estimated at $16 trillion in 2018, the most recent year for which data are available.
CBRE this week sought to spotlight the importance of diversity, timing its weekly broadcast with Hispanic Heritage Month. To that end, the CRE giant featured Pedro Niño of Clarion Partners, and CBRE’s Armando Nuñez and Nellie Cruz to relate their workplace experiences while sharing tips for people at every stage of a career.
Cruz, who offers office leasing, sales and advisory services working alongside one of the top producing office advisory teams at CBRE Sacramento, credited her parents for her own strong work ethic. “My parents, for example, they risked their lives coming here without knowing how to speak a word of English,” she said. “Crossing the border, slaving away in 100-degree heat for decades. And ultimately, they built their very own successful business. So why not carry on that legacy of hard work and determination?”
A member of Generation Z, Cruz was the youngest person on the panel. She specializes in landlord and occupier representation, and is part of CBRE’s Office Advisory Team in her hometown of Sacramento, Calif.
A tad more seasoned is Niño from the millennial generation who was vice president and head of industrial research at Clarion Partners, a firm with more than $80 billion of assets under management. He began his career with CBRE in 2013, and now works out of Clarion’s Dallas office.
“I would say there’s probably two points of advice that I would want give myself and give future generation of Hispanics that are looking to do potentially the same thing that I’m doing now,” he said. “The first one is, most important is, get yourself a mentor. Get yourself a mentor early in your career. I’ve had several mentors at different stages of my careers that have helped me grow both professionally and personally. And having someone in your corner that can give you advice, that can give you guidance, and sometimes criticism, that can walk you back or tell you, hey, you’re doing something wrong. That could be very important.”
He recalled climbing the ranks when he first entered the CRE industry: “You know, when I first started my career, I started as a research coordinator. And at the time, I was sort of most entry level within research, within the team, but I still built the courage to ask one of our senior directors if they could be my mentor. And when I moved to San Antonio, I did the same with a senior industrial broker. And to this day, I’ve benefited so much from our relationships and what we’ve learned together. And then the second part of that is, don’t be afraid. Don’t be afraid to put yourself in uncomfortable situations, because those situations will help you grow. You know, raise your hand to participate in a bigger project, sit in big, important meetings, even if you’re the only Hispanic there, right. And if you get stuck doing something you don’t like, do it and do it well. And chances are if you do it very well, you won’t do it for long.”
Nestled between Cruz and Niño, generationally speaking, is Gen Xer Nuñez, a New York-based senior vice president who’s been at CBRE for 30 years. He specializes in portfolio management as part of Global Workplace Solutions.
“I am in my seventh inning stretch right now, but for me, I think the voice of, if I could say, my generation, really, if I had to share some advice, would be the folks that have been here for a while, I think they have a lot of wisdom and more importantly, a lot of contacts,” Nuñez said. “And I think that’s important that we share those as we develop, because there’s a lot of young people that I get involved with and being a leader of the Hispanic Scholarship Fund and also leading HOLA has been tremendous,” he said, referring to CBRE’s Business Resource Group that has nearly 900 employees.
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Asked from an audience member how she overcame being the “quiet woman” – La mas quieta – in a field dominated by white males, Cruz said. “Our culture is for generations and still today has to be one of the most conservative ones. Our parents were brought up with the ideals that the women have to be in the household, and they have to be well-behaved, which is all good. And it teaches you morals and it teaches you how to be a great person, but I largely attribute how I was able to get outside of that box of being the quiet one, thanks to my own mom. She was the leader of our family and she just always got out there and would negotiate with all of the people that she’d be negotiating with, in part because of their business, and she’d be leading the conversation the entire time. Gosh, I wasn’t even 10 years old. I was probably between five and 10 years old when she picked me up from school and we’d go door to door and drop off brochures of their business in order to gain new clients. I think her example really broke out of that cultural bias and she was never afraid to have those obstacles.”
Niño explained how he leveraged his Latino dynamics in navigating through his career: “As it relates to my heritage, early in my career, I found a way to really leverage my differences by strengths. And one of those was being bilingual, right. I was working in an office in the US, in El Paso, Texas, with a great team, but we’d also do business quite a bit with clients and folks that were, you know, have portfolios down in the US but also in Mexico. So, what I did is I leveraged some of that and even early in my career I was able to get in front of high-profile institutional clients.”
Having those Hispanic sensibilities has always been a strength, he added: “I don’t think I’ve ever been or felt disadvantaged by being Hispanic. I’ve been fortunate enough to be surrounded by good leaders and good teams. And because of that, I don’t think I’ve ever felt like my ethnicity was a disadvantage, and I’ve been fortunate to do that. I mean, the reality is, as an industry, we’re lacking right now, only 6% of commercial listing professionals are Hispanic. Right? Only 3% are senior leaders. And within that, Hispanic women only make up 1% of leaders in the industry as well. So maybe those that may follow may not be as fortunate as I am. But from my perspective, I was able to learn how to leverage my differences, and I was able to again surround myself with a great team that was instrumental in my success.”
Nuñez agreed, noting that now is the best time for Latinos to enter the industry: “I would say that the opportunities now for Latinos within real estate have never been better, and I think we’re seeing that the numbers that are being put out, that the growth is there, the opportunity for growth is there,” he said. “So that means after Latino population, we morph into what we have in the United States. It’s only an opportunity for growth. And I see as our numbers, as Pedro pointed out they’re low right now. But that to me just means there’s a lot of potential. All I see is a graph going up.”