Reit Magazine - January/February 2021 - 17

Despite the existing diversity at A&B, the company
isn't resting on its laurels, says Benjamin, a member
of Nareit's DDEI CEO Council. " We're a 150-yearold company that's willing to reevaluate and redefine
how we do things. We're not stuck in our ways, and
we're not hiding from our past, " he notes.
Under Benjamin, A&B is going beyond what he
calls superficial measures of diversity and exploring
questions such as: " What about diversity in our
senior management ranks? What may be keeping
women from advancing to those ranks? Do we have
native Hawaiians in those ranks? How many people
do we employ from lower-income areas? "
" We're examining everything from the holidays
we celebrate to the way we recruit to the charities
we support, " says Benjamin, noting that there is as
much enthusiasm for diversity and inclusion in the
company's C-suite as there is among its millennial
employees. That enthusiasm paved the way for the
recent formation of such employee-led groups as
A&B Pride, which supports LGBTQ employees,
and a women's leadership initiative.
" With respect to diversity and inclusion, it
requires those people who have frankly suffered
from discrimination to be very involved, but
it also requires those of us with privilege
who have benefitted from the system to not
only endorse, but embrace [those efforts], "
Benjamin says.

INSTITUTIONALIZING EQUITY,
DIVERSITY & INCLUSION
Many others in the commercial real estate sector
appear to be coming around to the same idea.
That represents a shift from several years ago when,
on the whole, companies tended to take a fairly
laissez-faire approach to diversity and inclusion, says
Sudarshana Rangachary, SVP of human resources
at Essex Property Trust Inc. (NYSE: ESS). Essex was
a bronze winner in Nareit's 2020 Diversity, Equity &
Inclusion Recognition Awards.
" This industry previously had some challenges
in recognizing that diversity, equity, and inclusion
requires a more concerted effort, " she says. " There
was a general feeling that things develop organically
as long as you do the right thing. "
Essex revisited its ESG initiatives in early 2019 and,
as a result, formed a diversity and inclusion committee, among other moves. The committee reviews and
monitors activities and practices, including hiring
practices that promote diversity, equal opportunity,
and fair treatment for employees. Its chair reports
to President and CEO Michael Schall, who, in turn,
regularly updates the firm's senior management team
on the committee's activities. Schall is also a member
of Nareit's DDEI CEO Council.

Rangachary says Essex's " thoughtful, programmatic approach " to diversity, equity, and inclusion
has helped the company make strides on a number
of fronts. It has one of the most diverse workforces
among apartment REITs and has no gender pay gap,
she notes.
Despite the strides made, Rangachary says Essex
has more work to do, which includes aiming to make
its racial diversity mix even more reflective of the
West Coast markets in which it operates. " I'm happy
with where we are, but we recognize this is a journey.
By no means do we think our work is done, " she says.

PLEDGES, NOT PLATITUDES
Ventas, Inc. (NYSE: VTR), meanwhile, has also been
on a years-long journey toward greater diversity
and inclusion-not just because it's the right thing
to do but because it makes business sense, Cafaro
says. Ventas received the gold award in Nareit's 2020
Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Recognition Awards.
" I've always been motivated to build a great company and all the data show that diverse teams make
better decisions and have better results, " she says.
Under Cafaro, in 2018 Ventas became the
first REIT to join the CEO Action for Diversity
& Inclusion initiative, a CEO-driven business
commitment to advancing diversity and inclusion
within the workplace.
Starting with its ESG materiality assessment
in 2019, Ventas has set specific public goals with
regards to gender and diversity on its board, within
its leadership team, and across the organization. For
instance, the company is striving for company-wide
gender balance and 25% female representation
within its leadership team by 2023.
The firm has long prioritized gender diversity
at the board level. Since 2001, its board has had
at least two female members, including Cafaro.
Ventas' board now has four female members,
including Melody Barnes, a former White House
domestic policy director and the company's first
Black director.
We've taken the momentum of external events
[in 2020] to build more momentum and focus at
all levels of our organization to do more, faster "
with regard to diversity and inclusion, says Kelly
Meissner, director of sustainability at Ventas.
Meissner says she's convinced the REIT sector has
reached an inflection point with regards to diversity
and inclusion-just as it once did on the environmental front.
" This isn't just issuing statements. This is [about]
taking action: creating the framework and i
nfrastructure to study and understand how we
make progress on these issues as an industry, "
she says.
Nareit: Real estate working for you |

17



Reit Magazine - January/February 2021

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Reit Magazine - January/February 2021

Contents
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Reit Magazine - January/February 2021 - Contents
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