In a world where diversity and inclusion have become buzzwords, a group of technology executives have decided to spark a dialogue within the real estate industry. Helane Stein, Cecilia Li, Tama Huang, Ilene Goldfine, and Susan Lilly Gerock came together with a shared vision: to bring forth a content series that ignites conversations, encourages meaningful connections, and propels the industry toward a brighter future. They named it “Real Talk.”
“I believe DE&I should not be about checking boxes. Diversity should be about creating opportunities to promote everyone through their merits and accomplishments, and inclusion should be done without exclusions,” says Cecilia Li, SVP and Chief Information Officer, Urban Edge Properties. “Real Talk is about inspiring new faces to join in the conversations and to encourage allies to propel them forward,” she added.
The champions behind Real Talk believe that true change happens when we work from the inside out as well as from the outside in. It’s about creating an environment where new voices can be heard, different stories can be told, and perspectives can collide to create a future that celebrates and embraces the richness of diversity.
A female mentor once told Cecilia Li – SVP and CIO of Urban Edge Properties – she’d fail in tech as a woman and immigrant. Cecilia resolved to prove her wrong. And she did.
The inaugural Real Talk series will take place at Realcomm, the conference that brings industry leaders together each year to discuss, demonstrate, and debate the latest innovations impacting the real estate industry. Together, we are making an impact.
“In today’s rapidly evolving technological landscape, the interplay between diversity and innovation has become a topic of great significance — so in celebrating its 25th anniversary, we are delighted to be partnering with Realcomm to launch the Real Talk series,” said Helane Stein, SVP and Chief Information Officer at Brixmor Property Group, who served as its first female chair in 2015.
“When individuals from different backgrounds and walks of life come together, their varied viewpoints bring forth a rich tapestry of ideas. This diversity fuels creativity, leading to breakthrough innovations and better business outcomes.”Tama Huang, Strategic Advisor to Cherre
“Real Talk is also about inspiring people to achieve their greatest potential regardless of the obstacles they face” says Cecilia Li, whose journey began as a young immigrant. When a female mentor discouraged her from pursuing a tech career, declaring, “You’ll never make it because you are a woman and an immigrant,” Cecilia knew something was not right. She defiantly decided, “If I choose this path, I better be the best I can be.” And that’s exactly what she did. Years later, she attended the 20th anniversary of Realcomm, where she was inspired by the real estate visionaries who were celebrated for their talents and commitment to giving back to the community. However, it was when she saw Tama Huang, a Taiwanese immigrant and industry titan, receiving a Lifetime Achievement award that she was moved. “I didn’t even know her, yet I felt an immense pride in her accomplishments. Tama was a reaffirmation that success is possible for someone like me,” Cecilia said. Her passion for empowering others to pursue their dreams and become the best versions of themselves was ignited.
Tama Huang, who heads up strategy and growth at Cherre, knows the time for change is long overdue. With over 20 years of experience in business transformation, Tama believes that “when individuals from different backgrounds and walks of life come together, their varied viewpoints bring forth a rich tapestry of ideas. This diversity fuels creativity, leading to breakthrough innovations and better business outcomes.” Diversity and inclusion are not only ethically imperative but also vital for business success.
“True change comes from understanding that diverse thoughts and opinions matter; but first we all must recognize that sometimes it is hard for some people to relate to those who are not like themselves.”Ilene Goldfine, SVP and Chief Digital Strategy Officer at Hines
Ilene Goldfine, SVP and Chief Digital Strategy Officer for Hines, understands the challenges faced by women and underrepresented groups in an industry that has long “looked” the same at the C-suite level. “True change comes from understanding that diverse thoughts and opinions matter; but first we all must recognize that sometimes it is hard for some people to relate to those who are not like themselves.” Ilene explains. “Women and underrepresented groups have always recognized this difference and the need to partner with allies to make the change that is vital to embracing all diversity in thought.” With her role on the Realcomm Advisory Board, Ilene recognized the opportunity to make a difference and embraced it wholeheartedly. She believes inclusive leadership plays a pivotal role in creating an environment where diversity can flourish, and innovation can thrive.
“We need to pull up a seat at the table for younger, more diverse groups of individuals.”Susan Lilly Gerock, SVP, and Chief Information Officer of Elme Communities
Susan Lilly Gerock, SVP, and Chief Information Officer of Elme Communities shares Ilene’s sentiment and knows that true change requires a diverse and dynamic mix of voices at the decision-making table. “It starts with looking around at who is in the room. We need to pull up a seat at the table for younger, more diverse groups of individuals,” emphasizes Susan. By acknowledging the importance of inclusivity and representation, Real Talk recognizes that progress and innovation thrive when a wide range of perspectives are valued and included in the conversation.
As the inaugural Real Talk series at Realcomm 2023 approaches, the excitement is palpable. Designed to inspire conversations that create a lasting impact for future generations, the RealTalk series at RealComm is set to captivate attendees and shape the discourse of diversity at the intersection of real estate and technology.
By exploring the insights of the leaders who played an instrumental role in its genesis, we gain a deeper understanding of the strategies, collaborations, and visions that made Real Talk a reality.
Together, let’s unlock new frontiers in business by embracing the limitless potential of diversity and innovation.