Jim Walter is Global Account Director for Cushman & Wakefield’s relationship with MetLife, including an IFM portfolio of 8 MSF and delivering $140+ million annually in infrastructure and occupancy projects. Previously, he was Cushman & Wakefield’s East Region IFM Platform Lead, and AD for Kraft Foods relationship. Prior to Cushman & Wakefield, he managed 500+ MSF of commercial buildings and corporate facilities, completed $1B+ in transactions and $800M+ in projects.
How did you self-identify as LGBTQ+ at work?
I came out in the mid-1980’s, when it was pretty uncommon. Nevertheless, I decided to be matter-of-fact with my co-workers and clients: when they asked about my family, I explained that I had a male partner and dogs rather than a wife and children. In normal conversations about what people did over the weekend, I talked about my going to a drag show or an AIDS benefit the same way they talked about going to a Cubs game or their child’s softball game. When work-related events included spouses – much more common then than now – I brought Mark without asking. We were the first gay couple to attend the annual top performers award trip for one of my former companies. All shocking at first, but over time, it became a non-issue for most of the people I worked with. I became their first gay friend, the first gay person their kids ever met. The year after I brought Mark on the awards trip, two other gay award winners who had always come alone to such events brought their partners.
I should note that this approach did not always work. But in most cases, clients’ and co-workers initial surprise or unease turned to acceptance, and over time that acceptance turned to support.
Why is Pride Month important to you?
I find Pride Month to be an invaluable yardstick for the progress we have made. My first Pride parade in Chicago was a ragtag collection of a few dozen people. Years later, the event had grown considerably and even included a few local politicians. The early 90s brought protesters, but the events continued to grow along with the profile of the participants – celebrities, state and national politicians started showing support. I attended my first New York Pride event last year, in the middle of my move to the city, and was absolutely blown away by it – literally millions of people, full blocks of marchers queued up on every side street from 59th to 35th street. It really was overwhelming to see the scale, the diversity of the LBGTQ+ community represented, and the enormous support!
But each event had one thing in common: more huge smiles and happier people than you encounter in any other gathering of its size.
Why is diversity important in the workplace?
Cushman & Wakefield’s value proposition to our clients must go beyond tactical, transactional interactions. By drawing on the experiences, opinions and expertise of a broad, diverse team of C&W colleagues in advising our clients’ acquisition, construction, and operating decision, we are able to maximize the value we bring in delivering a real estate solution which best meets the needs of our clients’ diverse employees and customers.