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Strengthen the CRE Industry by Supporting Workplace Diversity

By BOMA/Chicago

In order to succeed in the $300 billion commercial real estate industry, professionals must rely on their extensive and diverse skill sets. Managing an office building or a portfolio encompass a uniquely wide range of professional specialties that involve tenant relations, budgeting, security measures, emergency preparedness and so much more. Given the expansive nature of the industry and the diverse skills CRE professionals use on an everyday basis, we must ask ourselves how racial and ethnic barriers to advancement in the industry still persist.

BOMA/Chicago has been addressing and tackling this issue head-on since 1994 when the first (and only) BOMA local Diversity Committee was formed.  A two-pronged initiative was adopted in 2005 that focuses on building diversity within Chicago’s CRE industry – (1) the Reginald L. Ollie Inclusion and Outreach Scholarship and (2) the annual Diversity Celebration. This initiative echoes BOMA/Chicago’s diversity vision, which states, “We envision an industry that in spirit and in practice promotes diversity and is comprised of professionals that mirror the community that we serve.”

The Committee (now named the Diversity & Corporate Social Responsibility Committee) worked together to find a way to help educate and mentor groups historically underrepresented in the building industry. The result was a scholarship named after Reggie Ollie, a devoted BOMA/Chicago member who served as the Chair of the Diversity Committee for more than 10 years. The scholarship is awarded to a rising star in the industry who hails from a diverse background. Valued at $10,000, the scholarship pays for the recipient to achieve the Real Property Administrator (RPA) designation. Each recipient is recognized at the annual Diversity Celebration and is also connected with a seasoned industry mentor.


Members gather at the 2013 Diversity Celebration at the Pritzker Military Museum & Library in the Monroe Building.

BOMA/Chicago is the only BOMA chapter in the world to have a Diversity & Corporate Social Responsibility Committee, a scholarship to support diversity and an event solely dedicated to celebrating diversity in the industry. This year’s Diversity Celebration will be held on April 3 at the Pritzker Military Museum & Library in the Monroe Building. J & J ARNACO LLC, owner of the Monroe Building, has generously offered us space for the event for the second year in a row, charging just enough to cover the costs. On top of donating space, the Monroe Building has again signed on to be the exclusive Platinum Sponsor of the Diversity Celebration, demonstrating J & J ARNACO’s commitment to workplace diversity.

Paul Rades, Property Manager at the Monroe Building and Vice Chair of the Diversity & Corporate Social Responsibility Committee, sat on the Committee when the scholarship was first formed. Rades remembers when the Diversity Committee first asked Reggie Ollie if BOMA/Chicago could name the scholarship after him. According to Rades, Ollie said he would be honored. Ollie’s only request was that BOMA/Chicago uphold his family’s integrity while always supporting the scholarship’s mission to keep diversity alive in the CRE industry.

Nine years later, BOMA/Chicago’s diversity mission is flourishing. Members of the Diversity & Corporate Social Responsibility Committee are currently in the midst of a call-to-action campaign to solicit sponsors for the April 3 Diversity Celebration.  The goal is to raise $25,000 for the Ollie Scholarship Fund. In return for their sponsorship, Building and Affiliate members will be given visibility leading up to the event on multiple marketing platforms and receive recognition at the Diversity Celebration amongst the 250 professionals in attendance. Platinum sponsorship has sold out, but Silver and Gold Sponsorships are available. Sponsorships will close on March 28.

Members can also help us make this event a success by donating an item (or cash to purchase items) to the BOMA/Chicago Foundation for our silent auction and/or raffle. Donations such as an iPad (or other tablet), weekend getaways/hotel stays, restaurant gift cards, tickets and skyboxes for sporting events, theater/symphony/opera tickets, spa/salon services, autographed sports items, etc. are valuable for both the silent auction and the raffle.

Brian Staunton, Regional Manager at Able Engineering Services, is a member of the Diversity & Corporate Social Responsibility Committee and is the Chair of the Diversity Celebration. For the four years Staunton has served on the Committee, he has seen how the Ollie Scholarship and the Diversity Celebration contribute to the growth and education of Chicagoland’s real estate professionals. By sponsoring the 2014 Diversity Celebration or contributing to the silent auction or raffle, Staunton believes members will be supporting and forging partnerships with future leaders.


Kristine Sorenson wins the Emerging Leader of the Year Award at the 2014 TOBY/Gold Circle Awards Gala.

Last year’s Ollie Scholarship recipient, Kristine Sorenson, is already halfway through earning her RPA and has become a leader in multiple areas of the industry. Most recently, Sorenson was named the 2014 Emerging Leader of the Year at the TOBY/Gold Circle Award Gala on January 30. As a Real Estate Services Administrator for CBRE at 100 North Riverside Plaza, Sorenson was given this award for her commitment to training and development, community service and contributions to industry initiatives, such as BOMA/Chicago’s Diversity & Corporate Social Responsibility Committee. She is currently working on the task force that is spearheading a blood drive initiative for the Committee which will launch this summer and she is the 2014 Chair of CBRE’s Asset Services Young Professional’s Organization.

Through BOMA/Chicago’s relentless passion to make its vision a reality, the diverse leaders of tomorrow are already carving their way to success. Continue supporting diversity in the industry and future Ollie Scholarship recipients by becoming a sponsor or silent auction/raffle donor today.

According to the Real Estate Associate Program, the CRE industry’s professional ranks have less than 1% minority leadership at management levels. This is less than 1,000 people in an industry comprised of more than 125,000 professionals. We’re not satisfied with these statistics. So let’s strengthen the CRE industry by helping the underrepresented rise through the ranks.