Case Study: Prologis

San Francisco, California
1,500 Employees
13 women at the senior vice president level or above; one woman on the executive team
Mentoring and Sponsorship
Managers Who Coach and Develop
Leadership Training
Objective Hiring, Performance Reviews, and Promotion

Prologis is the largest global developer, owner, and operator of industrial real estate. The sector is often described as one of the last bastions of male dominance in the real estate industry. Yet, under the leadership of CEO Hamid Moghadam, Prologis is creating an environment where career opportunities are merit-based and women are advancing along with men.

The business case for gender equity at Prologis is twofold. “We understand that the buying community is diverse, and we realize the importance of reflecting that diversity,” says Mike Curless, Prologis’s chief investment officer.

Moghadam believes that talent is distributed equally between men and women. “We don’t want to miss out on half of the talent,” says Moghadam. “That could put us at a competitive disadvantage.”

With distribution centers in major metropolitan cities, Prologis facilitates commerce from San Francisco to London and Shanghai to São Paulo. “Our customers, including P&G, Quaker Oats, BMW, and Pepsi, are at the top of their industries,” says Tracy Ward, senior vice president of investor relations. Like its customers, Prologis believes that top talent makes for top performance; as such, the company strives for an inclusive work environment.

“We are an incredibly dynamic company at the heart of the global supply chain,” Ward says. “We want to attract and retain the best talent in every market we serve.”

The company is working to develop a pipeline of fully representative talent. “Our long-term goal is gender balance at all levels of the organization,” says Diana Scott, Prologis’s global head of human resources. “We plan to get there by deploying diversity and inclusion best practices across the full employment life cycle—from recruitment and talent management to training, mentoring, and promotion.”

Prologis launched Breakthrough in June 2014. Since then, the executive team has been involved in its rollout every step of the way. “One of the key goals of Breakthrough is gender equity at senior levels,” Ward explains.

The Breakthrough Advisory Council comprises 13 of the company’s most-senior women. The council brings a diverse set of perspectives, including geographies, functions, and personal networks. Breakthrough has its own page in the Prologis business plan, and Scott reports directly to the company’s board of directors on the network’s progress.

“The Breakthrough kickoff was fact-based—at the entry level our employees are balanced between men and women. As we reach more senior levels, the numbers shift toward more men and fewer women,” Scott says.

Breakthrough is global in scope and customized by region. Regions share and learn from each other about everything from training and development to networking strategies and education.

While initially a network for women, Breakthrough now welcomes participation from men. Two of the training programs offered this year—personal brand techniques and negotiation skills—have drawn participation from both genders.

Gayle Starr, managing director of capital markets, has taken a lead role in working with MBA programs as part of Breakthrough’s goal to fill the talent pipeline for future senior leadership roles. The company is making progress in capturing the interest of female professionals who might not be aware of the potential for a career in commercial real estate. In 2015, three out of four MBA interns at Prologis were women, up from one out of four in 2014.

Scott goes on to explain how Prologis is leveraging its recruitment and talent review processes. External recruiters are required to present a diverse slate of candidates.

“We are now pushing each other to consider a broader range of candidates,” says Scott.

Curless agrees with this approach. “We never compromise on talent, and we are beginning to move the needle in terms of gender,” he says, adding that Prologis’s approach is not about forcing numbers, but rather is about hiring the best people to drive superior business results.

“We never compromise on talent, and we are beginning to move the needle in terms of gender.”

In the conversation about talent, senior leaders recommend job assignments that will give those who have the potential for senior roles broad exposure to the business. One person who has taken advantage of a lateral role change is Liz Dunn, who shifted to investor relations from financial planning and analysis this past year.

Dunn explains that the robust coaching she receives from her managers and mentors ensures that this challenging new assignment is a fruitful learning experience.

“So many men and women at Prologis have taken the time to think strategically with me about my career and make sure I am doing the work I ultimately want to do,” says Dunn. “Additionally, San Francisco’s open office environment fosters strong relationships and spontaneous conversations across all levels of the organization.”

Prologis also encourages stretch assignments to develop employees’ professional goals. Susan Pi, vice president of the investment committee, emphasizes that the quality of the coaching and mentoring she has received from her managers has been critical to her career growth at Prologis.

“The company truly has an enterprise mind-set,” says Pi. “My managers have provided excellent coaching and have helped me think through moving to different roles in different parts of the company.” She adds that since starting her family a few years ago, she now has greater flexibility in her schedule.

Along with its emphasis on core human resources processes, training programs, and coaching and mentoring, Prologis is tackling the culture changes that will ensure that inclusive behaviors are the norm.

“One of the biggest challenges for any organization is unconscious bias. Most of us, men and women alike, have a tendency to feel most comfortable with those who are most like us,” says Scott. “While tapping into unconscious knowledge can be effective for making smart business decisions in a complex environment, it pays to become more aware of unconscious reflexes when making decisions about people.”

The company’s unconscious bias program, rolled out in Europe in early 2015, has been refined to ensure it correctly reflects the nuances of the industrial real estate business and Prologis’s culture. “Basically, we are building greater self-awareness of the mind-sets that may affect decision making,” Scott says. “It is essential that leaders own the development, engagement, and efficacy of their talent and are aware of any biases in personnel decisions.”

One thing the team at Prologis knows for sure is that building and nurturing a diverse pipeline of talent will take a strong commitment from all levels of the organization.

“Our senior leadership knows that industry-leading creativity, innovation, and performance will come from a diverse team of leaders and an inclusive culture,” says Scott. “Our focus on and commitment to this vision is unwavering.”

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