Amplifying Black Voices: 5 Takeaways from Bridge’s Black History Month Celebration

Todd Mitchell, Director of Property Management at Bridge Commercial Real Estate, Member of the Diversity and Inclusion Committee and Co-Chair of the Black Inclusion Group

Bridge knows that our firm must be as diverse as the communities in which we operate. We believe that diversity is the foundation of excellence, and achieving excellence is predicated on our ability to recruit, develop, promote and retain people from varied backgrounds, cultures, skills and perspectives.

Over the past year, we have experienced not only a global pandemic, but a racial reckoning as well. As a country, we have experienced much change and loss, which made this year’s Black History Month recognition and celebration more important than ever.

Beginning last year, Bridge Investment Group’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Committee already started meeting to decide how to honor Black History Month in a meaningful way. During these discussions, Bridge’s Black Inclusion Group was formed with a mission to cultivate a diverse and inclusive work culture for Black employees and provide a platform for these employees to bring awareness to important issues through focused initiatives.

On March 24, the Black Inclusion Group launched its first initiative by hosting a firm-wide session titled “Amplifying Black Voices” with John Hope Bryant, founder, chairman and CEO of Operation HOPE Inc., CEO of Bryant Group Ventures and cofounder of Global Dignity. If you’re not familiar with John, this Wall Street Journal article provides a great overview of his work. He has also served as an advisor to three U.S. presidents and is the author of three bestselling books.

In the session with our team, John spoke to employees and shared his insights on economic, social and racial dynamics in the U.S. as well as strategies for how we can be better allies within our offices, properties and communities across the country.

Here are my five key takeaways:

Assess your biases.

Big picture, John’s comments reminded us of some things we already knew, like how people with ethnic-sounding names are 50% less likely to be called back for a job, according to the National Bureau of Economic Research.

Still, the conversation provided encouragement for a new round of self reflection on how we can look inward and assess our own implicit biases. Although sometimes inadvertent, these biases can deeply affect how we interact with our colleagues.  Bridge is actively scheduling training sessions that will allow team members to learn more about unconscious biases.

Adopt more diverse hiring practices.

In order to attract and hire for more diverse talent, companies must first source candidates for job openings in a manner that ensures a diverse slate. Simply put, companies need to cast a wider net to ensure that underrepresented communities are considered for needed services.

I’m very much reminded of former Mayor of Atlanta, Maynard Jackson — the city’s first Black Mayor of any major city in the South — who sponsored programs that ensured minority contractors were included in city-initiated requests for proposals. In addition, Bridge has initiated conversations with several historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs), to explore ways in which the institutions and Bridge can work to increase minority participation in the commercial real estate industry.

Act as an advocate for diverse colleagues.

While one-on-one mentorship focuses on an individual’s skill development, advocacy and sponsorship takes this to the next level by assisting with career vision and advancement. A sponsor champions for diverse employees by actively promoting them to others, and rebuffs criticisms as appropriate.

Hold relational capital to the highest standard.

To create a more inclusive working environment, relational capital should be taken as seriously as financial capital. A company can only thrive when all employees know and feel that their contributions are valued and their personal ideas encouraged. A company must hold their intangible, relational assets to the same standard as its tangible businesses processes and standards.

Expand the leadership team to include diversity officers.

Moving forward, we will need to dedicate more resources to implement and drive initiatives in a way that volunteer committees alone can no longer support. This includes expanding our teams to include employees dedicated full-time to advancing diversity initiatives.

As part of our commitment to diversity, Bridge Investment Group is continuing to work diligently to create more inclusive spaces within our company, regardless of race, gender or other cultural identities. In addition to the Black Inclusion Group, we have made strides through the Bridge Women’s Network, LGBTQ+ Allyship Program, and the recently launched Asian American, Pacific Islander (AAPI) employee resource group. We are also preparing to launch additional resource groups throughout 2021 and beyond.

For more information about Bridge’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee, please visit www.bridgeig.com/diversity-equity-inclusion.

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