BPF commits to the long-game on diversity

31 Jan 2018

Policy area: Diversity and Inclusivity, BPF

BPF Chief Executive Melanie Leech speaks to Estates Gazette this week on the BPF’s commitment to the long-game on diversity.

The events reported at the recent Presidents Club dinner have rightly been widely condemned. I made my position very clear on this – such behaviour is totally unacceptable, writes BPF chief executive Melanie Leech.

But we need to make sure that the issues this incident has raised lead to more than a few days of outrage and vilification of individuals. They show that we still have a long way to go in the business community to embed a truly inclusive culture.

For me, and for the BPF, that means a thoughtful reflection and challenge about what more we need to do, collaborating with others across the industry, to create an environment within the property industry in which such behaviours cannot happen, and where individuals not seen to be holding themselves to the highest standards of respect for others, are the ones who are (and feel) unwelcome and out of place.

Our Statement of Principles for a diverse and inclusive real estate industry, published in May 2017, recognises that as the voice of the real estate industry we at the BPF have a key role to play in fostering an environment that promotes a culture of equality and inclusion and that attracts the broadest range of talent from all parts of society. We are working with a range of expert partners to drive this agenda.

Internally we have set ourselves standards to make sure that any event run or supported by the BPF has a diverse make-up; and that I and my team speak at or take in only events where participation is diverse. We are looking at ways to involve as broad a range of participation in the BPF as possible. These include the launch of BPF Futures in December last year.

The question for me and for the BPF board over the next few weeks will be: what more?

We are used to tangible outputs – when we say Rome wasn’t built in a day, we are generally talking about the time it takes to build the physical fabric of our towns and cities. But it is equally true of more intangible issues such as culture. Behavioural norms aren’t built – and certainly not changed – overnight.

I started my career in the Metropolitan Police Service in the 1980s. While it is not perfect, I believe the present-day MPS is one in which some of the behaviours I experienced then as a young police constable could not happen – and I think the first female commissioner, Cressida Dick, would agree with me.

So let’s channel the anger and outrage generated over the past week to make sure we go beyond tokenism, take the long haul and deliver fundamental and lasting change.