Implementing DEI Practices to Bring Opportunities to Under-Represented Groups on a Project Level

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion… these topics are certainly top of mind for many companies these days, and for good reason.  Diverse and varied perspectives, experiences, and the creation of a more level playing field are beneficial to all people in all industries and workplaces. We can all benefit from seeing the world, and especially our little slice of it, through a more accepting and welcoming lens. How do we bring this approach to our development projects and the various communities that we work in and serve?

First, we start from the ground up. An overarching tenet to keep in mind is that DEI practices cannot be implemented by one person or even by one committee.  Every employee of the company needs to think critically about DEI in their day-to-day work lives, in the selection of partners, vendors and consultants, and how we interact with our institutional clients and the students we serve.

Second, we look to third-party resources and training to help us build a team that is well-versed in DEI practices. Oftentimes, people do not even realize that bias creeps into their everyday conscious and subconscious decisions.  So, how do you implement change when people do not realize the impact they can and often have in seemingly benign interactions?  Unconscious bias training is a great place to start and is a way to bring a third party into the conversation.  These consultants can educate employees and project consultant teams at a different level and usually in a more effective way than management because they are impartial and can look at the situation and provide honest, detailed and constructive feedback on how to affect change.

Third, we set goals and track our progress to ensure we are remaining true to these goals and our mission. Accountability must also be at the forefront of a DEI effort to really affect change within the community that you are serving.  Big and broad goals are good to have but we have found that you also need smaller, more tangible, intermediate goals that can be established, and then TRACKED along the way.   Our teams track project budgets and schedules with the utmost detail to ensure we meet all of the stated goals and objectives.  As an organization, Capstone brings this same mentality to its DEI initiatives to ensure that our efforts have a meaningful impact on our employees, our partners, and the institutions, students and communities we work with and in on a daily basis.  Whether we are tracking our talent acquisition efforts, our partner selection and project workforce goals, or the impact of our philanthropic and community service efforts we must hold ourselves accountable to the DEI initiatives that we establish and track them in order to effectuate change.

This type of goal setting and tracking was recently implemented at the University of Washington Bothell where we are partnering to develop a new $170M residential village.  Early on, our development team aligned itself with the University’s business diversity and equity objectives to provide the maximum practicable opportunities for small, minority, women, veteran, LGBTQ-owned, and other historically marginalized businesses to compete for contracts for the construction of the new mixed-use community.  With defined goals and objectives established with our team, we were able to create the opportunities and garner the interest from marginalized businesses that could make a real impact on the project.  The process was evaluated throughout the predevelopment phase and a tracking log was utilized as a tool to ensure that we were achieving our objectives in a meaningful way.  Ultimately, we were able to exceed our aspirational goals and were able to award contracts that achieved over 24% participation directly from minority and women-owned businesses on the project.

Historically, marginalized groups are at a disadvantage from a workforce and enterprise perspective and it is important for each of us to take meaningful, actionable steps to impact change.  From conducting seminars and training for our employees and teams, to setting participation goals to ensure we partner with minority, women, veteran and LGBTQ owned companies, we can make diversity, equity and inclusion a top priority within our company, within our development and construction teams, and within the communities for which we serve by keeping DEI efforts at the forefront of all that we do.

Authors: Chad Izmirian, Sr VP Development and Yvette Tetreault, VP Development