In the conservative, male-dominated industry of commercial real estate, Lara Di Gregorio is an authentic leader committed to diversity and inclusion (D&I) who uses her voice to advocate for underrepresented groups in her industry, including women and the LGBT community. Recognizing the difficulty young women face in commercial real estate, she co-founded a women’s networking group called Women in Real Estate Drinks (WiRED). Other than identifying as a woman working in the commercial real estate industry, there are no membership requirements or fees, which effectively removes all barriers to entry and thereby creates a very inclusive environment, a rarity in the sector.
As the Vice Chair, Membership Committee, in the Toronto chapter of the leading commercial real estate association, National Association of Industrial and Office Properties (NAIOP), Ms. Di Gregorio has made it part of her mandate to recruit new women members and develop inclusive networking and education sessions. The group has 1,000 members in the greater Toronto area. As an outspoken LGBT ally, when employed by Jones Lang Lasalle, she founded the Canadian chapter of the organization’s LGBT ERG known as Building Pride. She also coordinated and hosted Jones Lang Lasalle’s first global Building Pride educational conference call.
Ms. Di Gregorio is committed to holding her organization’s peers and leaders accountable for acting inclusively in the workplace. She is fearless in interrupting exclusionary behavior within both the workplace and the broader industry by having challenging conversations about the need for increased diversity.
Many professional organizations within the commercial real estate industry require an application, a fee, and sometimes references to join them, and there are few such organizations specifically for women. Seeing a need, Ms. Di Gregorio and two of her industry colleagues created WiRED to provide a forum for networking and to discuss the unique challenges that women in commercial real estate face. Membership continues to increase, and WiRED has expanded its activities to include senior-level women speakers discussing their career experiences with WiRED participants. Ms. Di Gregorio and her WiRED co-founders continue to gather support for the initiative and are beginning to engage with corporate sponsors to fund WiRED’s activities.
Inclusive Leadership Through Courage
As a leader, Ms. Di Gregorio exhibits all of the inclusive leadership behaviours outlined in Catalyst’s EACH model: Empowerment, Accountability, Courage, and Humility. However, perhaps her most compelling inclusive leadership trait is courage. Her guiding principle is to “be the change you want to see” in the industry. It is this belief that inspires her to lead by example.
For Ms. Di Gregorio, there is no question that active, intentional, inclusive leadership is required to create change in her industry. Her passion and belief that promoting diversity is “the right thing to do” is what drove her to co-found WiRED. It is also what led her to establish the Canadian arm of Jones Lang Lasalle’s Building Pride ERG. Ms. Di Gregorio is outspoken on women’s and LGBT issues in her industry, and engages in difficult conversations even though the culture in many commercial real estate companies may not be conducive to such discussions.
About Lara Di Gregorio
Ms. Di Gregorio started her career in the real estate industry at Cushman & Wakefield as an account manager and financial analyst in the office leasing division. Prior to joining Crestpoint in 2015, she worked at LaSalle Investment Management on the asset management team and, most recently, as the asset and leasing manager at a merchant developer responsible for negotiating offers and leases on a development portfolio of more than 3 million square feet. Ms. Di Gregorio has a bachelor’s degree with honours in urban development from the University of Western Ontario and is an active member of multiple commercial real estate associations.