How Inclusion Drives Multifamily Success

Insights from Lendlease’s Leah Granderson on the power of diversity.

As Multi-Housing News observes Black History Month, we talk to Lendlease Americas Head of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Leah Granderson about the value of bringing outliers to the table and removing barriers for minority groups to pursue a career in real estate or advance professionally.

Granderson is responsible for developing and implementing inclusive strategies and embedding practices that drive diversity, equity and inclusion within the workplace. The company’s DEI approach banks on four pillars: culture, talent development, recruitment and external relationships/partnerships, according to Granderson.

Here’s what she told MHN about her work and the power of inclusive real estate organizations.

LISTEN TO: Podcast—Integrating ESG, DEI & Philanthropy

You’ve been involved in DEI initiatives for a long time. What drove you to pursue this path?

Granderson: I earned my degree in architectural engineering from Tennessee State University and, since that time, have worked within the construction/real estate industry. There have been numerous individuals who supported me—beginning with my first role as a project engineer and throughout my 20-plus-year career—instilling in me the value of mentorship and the power that a diverse and inclusive workforce can bring to an organization that prioritizes such initiatives.

I have always advocated for creating spaces that embrace the diversity of individuals who choose to grow a career within the construction, engineering and real estate industry. In my time with Lendlease, I helped establish our Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Council and I serve as co-chair of the Women at Lendlease Employee Resource Group. Moving into the role of head of DEI for Lendlease Americas felt like a natural evolution.

Why is leadership support crucial in implementing DEI strategies?

Granderson: DEI strategies can only have meaningful impact within an organization when they have the full endorsement of executive leadership. I am extremely proud of the support of our CEO, Claire Johnston, who not only supports DEI, but also recognizes it is a key differentiator in making Lendlease an employer of choice. I regularly consult with the regional and senior leaders on practices, tools and initiatives that promote DEI within Lendlease. Having leadership fully invested and sharing accountability ensures that we are continuing to progress DEI through mindset and behavioral changes, coupled with systems that support a culture of inclusion.

Can you give us an example of a recent DEI initiative you worked on?

Granderson: For the first time in the Americas region, we celebrated Disability Pride Month last July. My mother is legally blind, so I know firsthand that disabilities can be both apparent and latent, and the stigma and bias that comes along with both. Through the celebration of Disability Pride Month, which included educational and awareness opportunities through the support of our All-Abilities ERG, we as a business were able to expand our understanding of the integral contributions of persons with disabilities.

READ ALSO: Embracing Diversity—Strategies That Work for Pride Month and Beyond

What challenges remain in the path of achieving DEI goals for real estate companies today?

Granderson: DEI support within private companies grew following the murder of George Floyd in 2020. However, there are many headwinds challenging the foundational practices of DEI in 2024, and there is much more work to do. It is important that real estate companies continue to embrace and understand that DEI is not just a ‘nice to have.’ It will always be foundational to business performance because it drives better decision-making and, ultimately, financial outcomes. When all employees feel supported, seen and heard, they will contribute to the organization in ways that increase productivity and profitability.

How important are mentorship programs and initiatives? Could you share a personal experience that gave you hope for the future?

Granderson: Having benefited from relationships that guided, supported and provided counsel throughout my career, I am a firm believer in mentorship and sponsorship of diverse and underrepresented talent. Unfortunately, the construction and real estate industry still lacks diversity in terms of women and people of color—an issue that persists all year long but is brought into focus during Black History Month. The pace and grit of navigating a career within this industry requires intentionality and support of and by our colleagues, leaders and peers. Otherwise, we will continue to hinder the growth of diverse professionals within this industry.

I am most encouraged when I have an opportunity to meet with people who are early in their career but nonetheless display incredible levels of intellect and innovation. I have so many examples of participating on a team and having them present an idea that compels me to say, ‘That is good! In fact, that is REALLY good!’ By removing barriers to diversity in the industry, the next generation will continue to realize its true potential. Witnessing the spark and curiosity among our diverse young professionals gives me hope that we continue to make progress.

What would you share with the younger generations of professionals entering the multifamily sector? What type of organizations should they look for to maximize their potential?

Granderson: Simply put, this industry needs you! Young professionals need only look out their windows to see that the construction and real estate industry continues to influence and impact the communities in which they live and work. It would be a disservice to the industry if the people responsible for defining what the future looks like all thought, walked and lived the same way.

When you have people at the table who think differently, have a variety of life experiences and see the world from diverse vantages—who can come together to contribute to meaningful conversations, respecting, appreciating and learning from each other’s differences—that at its core is the power of diversity. It creates better experiences, fosters greater ideas and results in more valuable solutions, and is therefore the most viable path forward for this industry.

I encourage the next generation of real estate leaders to join and become active members of professional networks and organizations that see, embrace and support them. Remaining curious and building relationships are the best ways to grow in this industry, so they should take advantage of learning and development opportunities offered to them.

You May Also Like