Rolling Out

Ayris Scales of NAREIT details diversity strategy

The executive shares the strategies they use to combat lack of diversity

Ayris Scales is the senior vice president of social responsibility and global initiatives at Nareit where she focuses on diversity, equity and inclusion in the commercial real estate space. With 20 years of experience in economic and community development, she is well-versed in forming strategic partnerships to create solutions to social challenges. Her main goal is to inspire young women to pursue their goals and dreams.

Scales shared more about her experiences in commercial real estate and how Nareit is helping to diversify the field.

What should people know about commercial real estate?

I am in commercial real estate, but even a subset of commercial real estate, which are to your point Real Estate Investment Trusts, which are REITs, I’m going to be honest, before I came into this role, even though I had worked for many years with developers, commercial real estate developers, I was not familiar with REITs. REITs are real estate investment trusts [where] you are able to invest in a [pool] of real estate, [similar to a person who] invests in stocks [or mutual funds]. It allows you to kind of have that opportunity to own a little bit of America. It’s different from just traditional real estate that’s privately held, in that these are publicly traded on the stock exchange and it’s a great way to have a long-term investment and diversify your investment portfolio.

In terms of lack of diversity, what strategies are in place to improve this?

Nareit is a trade association, we are representing we are advocating, we’re educating, and empowering even the industry of REITs. A few years ago, we established a CEO council which I think is so fabulous, because these are not conversations that have traditionally been had or even collectively as an industry. They identified three areas that they wanted to see some advancement around people, which comes back to workforce partnerships, and then philanthropy. When you talk about [business to business], one of the things that got me excited about this role, was the opportunity to work with our partners or our members in this industry and create better connections, and easier platforms in which they can identify and support bringing in more diverse suppliers and vendors.

You mentioned the dividends through diversity equity and inclusion. How does that work?

Dividends through diversity, equity, and inclusion are our overarching, DEI strategy and approach for the industry we’re representing. That’s where our three pillars of people, partnerships, and philanthropy fall. What we’ve done is created a set of targeted priorities and initiatives to support our industry with retaining and identifying talent. Here are some best practices. We bring in leaders, we host conferences, we hold webinars, and we have different councils and committees where they can do peer exchanges. We are seeing changes literally, as a result of that. We have a long way to go but every time you can just see it increase in terms of diversity on board representation and increase in terms of diverse members of staff; where you traditionally had not.

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