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Watch Reggie Ollie’s 10th Annual Diversity Celebration Speech

Reginald L. Ollie, our Ollie Scholarship namesake, recorded a special message for the 10th Annual BOMA/Chicago Foundation Diversity Celebration. You can watch Reggie's message here and read his speech below.


As I approach the 10th Anniversary of BOMA/Chicago Foundation's Diversity Celebration, I have reflected on where DEI is within Chicago CRE. I will say that we have made progress with many miles to go before we sleep.

Sometimes necessary progress is in plain sight. In my opinion, it is feeling comfortable dealing with those different from us. This takes the form of learning and understanding those aspects of a person different from you. I do not think that most of those in the non-underrepresented group realize that for those of us in the underrepresented group, we must do this to survive.

Think about this conundrum. We are expected to blend into an arena where those who historically have always operated, not feeling neither comfortable, safe or understood. The rules of the road are that we are expected to change our behaviors and personas to those of the non-underrepresented group to be successful. I have always wondered how managers in the non-underrepresented group could successfully manage underrepresented persons, expecting to achieve maximum results. This goes both ways.

Since I am Black Privileged, I learned from life experiences about those in the non-underrepresented group being the “first” in their many arenas: As a result, those non-underrepresented persons under my management in most cases felt safe and understood. However, when I look back over my career, it was with few exceptions, the feeling was the same for me.

This being mostly still the case, to achieve the dream of DEI, I ask those managers in both the non-underrepresented and underrepresented group at all levels to do the following:

  • Be curious and take action to learn things about their underrepresented and non -underrepresented employees, allowing them to do the same about them
  • Allow underrepresented and non-unrepresented employees to feel comfortable discussing trials and tribulations in and outside work place (slights felt because of underrepresented or non-underrepresented status, encounters with law enforcement, etc.)
  • Expect and accept that this journey will be uncomfortable at the start, but extremely rewarding on the road traveled.

The promises in doing the aforementioned suggested requirements of leadership are:

  • Understanding that a DEI workforce will embody different perspectives, opinions, insights, and approaches to work
  • Believing the truism that greater organizational results will be achieved in being comfortable feeling uncomfortable about differences in the DEI work force

Since the 1960’s, billions have been spent by organizations annually on DEI training and multi-millions have been spent on DEI consulting with menial results. You can make your own assessment about how a company would consider such results if this was for either a product or a service. I am of the opinion at this stage of the game that DEI Coaching at all management levels is the solution.

So, let me close by saying: Respect for both similarities and differences in others opens doors to many opportunities.

I and my family look forward to seeing you at the big event. I am especially excited to meet and hear from our Ollie Scholarship recipients – Vivian Orozco, Jose Bahena and Daja Walker-Parker.