Blackstone's Jon Gray: Here are 2 reasons why workplace gender diversity is important

Blackstone (BX) has made it a priority to increase its female workforce in what have historically been male-dominated fields in finance.

“I think it’s important,” Jon Gray, Blackstone’s head of real estate, told Yahoo Finance in the video above.

“One, because it’s obviously the right thing to do. But two, women bring a different perspective,” he explained. “The investment business is, ‘how can I see something? How can I see the risks? How can I see the opportunities?’ And women see things differently than men. They have a different experience. It’s the same reason you want to attract talent on a global basis. You want people who can look at things. There’s a marketplace of ideas. There’s a marketplace of talent. You want the very best.”

Like many financial services and real estate firms, Blackstone found that women were under-represented at the company.

“And about five years ago we sat around — and under the leadership of Joan Solotar, who sits on our management committee — we said, ‘what can we do to rectify this?’ If we’re in the investing business, we want to have as much talent as possible and not choosing people from almost half the population doesn’t make a lot of sense.”

Since that time, almost 40% of the firm’s new analyst hires are women, up from less than 20% before. In the managing director category, the business has nearly doubled the number of women at that senior level. For the various companies in Blackstone’s portfolio, the firm has hired senior women, including CEOs and board members.

Jon Gray (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Gray, 47, joined Blackstone on the corporate side doing private equity and M&A in 1992 after graduating from the University of Pennsylvania. Soon after, he moved to what at the time was the firm’s small real estate business. With $104 billion in assets under management, Blackstone is the largest owner and investor in real estate today.

A married father of four daughters, Gray and other senior leaders at the firm helped increase the Blackstone’s female workforce by taking a ground-up approach, hiring more women at summer associate and junior level and working them up the system. The firm also instituted networking and a mentorship program for women.

“We want to create a place where people really want to come to work, and that’s made a difference,” Gray said. “We’re making progress. We’re not perfect. We’ve got a long way to go, but we focused on this, and we’re proud of what we’ve done so far.”

Listen to the full interview

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Julia La Roche is a finance reporter at Yahoo FinanceFollow her on Twitter.

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