Nekesha Sawh DEI

CoreNet NYC DEI Committee Celebrates Black History Month with Nekesha Shaw, JPMorgan Chase

March 2022

During February, we highlighted the important contributions of Black Real Estate Professionals in New York now and throughout history

Real Estate Mogul Philip A. Payton Jr., The Father of Black Harlem

At the turn of the 20th century, Black renters in New York City often had no choice but to live in overcrowded slums rife with discrimination, hazardous living conditions and police brutality. In 1904, after years of working his way up as a janitor in a Real Estate office, Philip Payton, with help from a series of Black investors, opened the Afro-American Realty Company in Harlem. As the new subway line to 145th Street opened, Black settlers flooded in! The white flight that accompanied the growing Black settlement opened up several opportunities for Black landlords. At the time of Philip A. Payton Jr’s death in 1917, 75% of all Black residents of NYC lived in Harlem.

Allies’ Corner: Practical Ways to Use Your Privilege:

  • Listen to your Black colleagues without judgement or defensiveness. It may not be easy for some people to speak up; don’t make it more difficult by dismissing your colleagues’ lived experience.
  • Take notice of and support teammates who may be feeling marginalized or excluded. Look for opportunities to make space for them, support them, and empower them to do their best work.
  • When you witness discrimination, don’t wait to offer support later in private. Speak up and offer immediate support in the moment.

Check back for more practical ways to affect positive change in your workplace in the next issue!

Meet Nekesha Sawh of JPMorgan Chase. They sat down with us to tell us about some of their successes and challenges in Commercial Real Estate.

What does it mean to be Black in the Corporate Real Estate Industry?

Being Black in Corporate Real Estate industry means that I am representing and showing up for those who have not had the opportunities and access that I have add. My career has been blessed with amazing teammates, managers, mentors, allies, and advocates. My ability to assess and strategically think and execute a task, project, build a team and programmatic develop something have always brought me opportunities on merit. The leaders I’ve worked with have always taken that and provided me opportunities to expand my experience and knowledge in spaces with little to no input from a black person within the field. So, when I walk into a room, I am always reminded that I represent movement in the needle to bring diversity within corporate real estate. It matters that I set an example for being a black woman with love a passion for corporate real estate. Joining Hines four years ago was a part of my journey to advocate and be a leader at the table for change in best way possible.

What changes do you think should be implemented for a more diverse industry?

As the industry diversifies it needs to start at the top. Increasing not just the boots on the ground as a diverse population but ensuring access and mobility to be promoted to senior and C-suite roles. From a diversity perspective you need to consider not just women or underrepresented minorities, but women how are under representatives and being more intentional in what we mean when we say diversity.  Taking steps to remove the political umbrella of it all will also bring more transparency and much needed dialogue for more diversity.

What steps can the Corporate Real Estate Industry take to make careers in real estate more accessible to Black professionals?

Outreach to our students in high schools and colleges; younger professionals is where we will increase our industry diversity. Hines has developed a great internship program through our partnerships with Genesys Works and Project Destined. As a part of the team these interns worked closely with my team and other departments to learn what we do and why corporate real estate is an option for them when graduating school. Getting in front and working with communities that are underrepresented to ensure gentrification brings awareness to upscale the people in the community, provide jobs that help them work and remain living in the community.

Who are your biggest inspirations/role models? My biggest inspiration is my 18-year-old daughter, her generation is full of so many ideas and viewpoints on how the world should be. I love our open conversations and the trust we have with each other. My role model has always been my mother who as an immigrant nanny spent so many years raising other children. She instilled in me no matter what I choose to do in life, do it with 200% of love and passion. For both these women in my life I want to show how much change can happen from one generation to another and leaving a beautiful legacy.

If you could give younger you a word of career advice, what would it be?

My advice to my younger self would be “Believe that what is for you will be for you”. For years I focused on goals and created a plan, I still do but I have learned everything for me has happened at the right time it needed for me. So, in this new stage of my life, I am letting go and trusting things will work out.

Sarah D’Annibale, M Moser Associates