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SMPS Headquarters
625 North Washington Street
Suite 302 Alexandria, VA 22314-1936
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DEI Committee
Driving Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in the Built Environment
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By Asheya Warren, FSMPS, CPSM and Antonio Payne, CPA, CDE
smps at 50
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In the wake of significant social and political upheaval in 2020, the Society for Marketing Professional Services embarked on a mission to renew efforts around diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) within the built environment industry. Spearheaded by a dedicated committee, SMPS continues to pave the way to transform business through marketing leadership and recognizing that inclusion is part of that strategy. As SMPS celebrates our fifty-year legacy, we must also explore who we want to be for the next fifty years by integrating representation, voice, and reflecting society overall.

A Call to Action:

In 2020, during a Society Board of Directors meeting in Las Vegas at the Pacific Regional Conference, the concept of a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion task force was first proposed to the board. After the tumultuous events of 2020, including the tragic murder of George Floyd and other incidents targeting Black and Brown individuals, the task force's creation gained urgency. It became a top priority for the SMPS leadership.
The board and staff created space for the task force to make meaningful recommendations that would drive diversity, equity, and inclusion. Initial meetings of the task force attracted a mix of individuals with various motivations for participating. Some joined to make a positive impact, while others sought to learn and contribute within their firms and local chapters. This diverse group, included voices from immigrant and LGBTQ communities, recognized the challenges ahead and the need for a more inclusive industry.

Identifying the Challenges:

The task force faced the significant challenge of defining its role in tackling industry diversity, equity, and inclusion. Recognizing that SMPS is a cross-discipline professional association comprised of marketers, and business developers, the task force under the leadership of Asheya Warren, FSMPS, CPSM began to structure a strategic framework. It became evident that professional services marketing presents an ideal starting point for enhancing inclusion and representation as professional barriers to entry are minimal, embraces varied educational backgrounds, and can benefit from a broader range of perspectives and skill sets. Recognizing this differentiator solves the industry's workforce recruitment issues while also better reflecting the communities that the built environment seeks to cultivate. The board of directors also embraced the importance of ensuring that DEI work stays top-of-mind and engrained in all lines of Society operations. To create a sense of permanence and perpetuity, the task force became a standing committee at the Society level in 2022.

Developing the Philosophy Statement:

The committee set out to create a philosophy statement that would embody the principles of DEI and guide the actions of SMPS. The philosophy statement, crafted collaboratively over several iterations, contains living, guiding principles that have become the groundwork for operational policy. By leaving room for growth and adaptation, the statement will remain relevant as the landscape shifts.

Driving Change:

Over the past three years, the committee has launched numerous initiatives in alignment with the strategic framework which provide resources to chapters and industry firms. For example, the record-setting SMPS DEI Townhall series has held 9 sessions with subject-matter experts providing key insights demonstrating inclusion in action. The SMPS DEI Townhall series will continue to provide focused, timely content related to issues facing our members and firms.

The Road Ahead:

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As the committee continues its ongoing efforts, the goal is that SMPS and the industry can become more representative of the communities we collectively serve. As SMPS looks to the next fifty years, embracing and incorporating DEI lens throughout all programming efforts will propel the Society and A/E/C industries forward.
To achieve this, the committee will continue to focus on three key areas of intentional action:
  1. Representation: Encouraging increased representation of marginalized communities within all levels of SMPS (membership, chapter leadership, regional conference attendance and presence, and the national leadership) and the industry at large.
  2. Recruitment: Continuing efforts with Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and other educational institutions to introduce and expose diverse talent to the professional services marketing sector.
  3. Advocacy: Addressing the potential impact of changes in contracting and procurement policies from a political perspective, potentially impacting minority-owned businesses, and supporting the development of inclusive practices within the industry. Additionally, continuing to cultivate relationships with industry peer groups who are also advocating for increased change.
The DEI committee has taken significant strides in promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion within the built environment industry. With a focus on representation, recruitment, and advocacy, the committee will continue to center inclusion and diversity and work with SMPS chapters nationwide to help deploy DEI strategies at local levels. The committee has developed a bevy of useful resources for chapters and A/E/C firms. Future resources will include subject-matter focused guides, shared industry reports, and continued DEI thought-leadership.
Collectively, the goal is to strategically cultivate a more inclusive A/E/C industry where diversity thrives, empowering individuals from all walks of life to contribute their unique perspectives and talents to the industry's growth and success.
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For over twenty years, Asheya Warren, FSPMS, CPSM, has worked with numerous A/E/C and commercial real estate firms, ranging from large national corporations to growing minority-owned/small businesses as CEO & Founder of Praxis and is a two-term past president of SMPS Dallas.
Contact Asheya at awarren@praxis-psm.com
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Antonio Payne, CPA, CDE is the Chief Financial Officer at SMPS and serves as the DEI Advocate.
Contact Antonio at antonio@smps.org