Diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) are not just buzzwords. It is our role as real estate professionals to incorporate diversity, equity, and inclusion into everything that we do. For our industry, it’s particularly important as it relates to homeownership rates. It may not surprise you that there is a major discrepancy between the homeownership rates of white and non-Hispanic Americans and those considered diverse communities.
Homeownership Rates (2021 Q2)
● White & Non-Hispanic: 74.2%
● AAPI: 58.7%
● LGBTQ: 49%
● Hispanic: 47.5%
● Black: 44.6%
This discrepancy illustrates the need for brokers to reaffirm their commitment to help overturn the very real barriers to homeownership for diverse communities. It can start by looking within at company culture. As business leaders, real estate brokers can identify new approaches and cultivate a culture that equips and empowers agents to better serve diverse communities. Not only will this pave the way for equality, opportunity, and fairness in our industry, but it can help strengthen your company, foster innovation and fuel growth.
We always took great pride in our inclusive Wilkinson ERA Real Estate culture that included an agent pool that speaks 14 languages and consists of a wide variety of ethnicities, religions, sexual orientations, and political affiliations.
As a result of the increased national spotlight on DE&I challenges and issues, one of our agents, Tammy Wilson, approached our leadership team and encouraged us to do more. Not only did we have to do a better job in assisting the Black community in the Charlotte area, along with other diverse communities, but we had to create more opportunities for representation, adding to and expanding our diverse agent population.
Our goal was simple. We intended to rise to the occasion and become a DE&I leader. Here are a few ways we’ve been moving real estate in a new direction to create a culture that continues to embrace diversity.
Drive the Conversation
The first step in this journey was the most important. We created a Black, Indigenous, and People of Color Committee (BIPOC), which has aided us in developing new, core company values, while also helping us formulate an action plan to get diverse communities more involved in the homeownership process. In one of those early meetings, Tammy summed it up really well.
“My hope is that this work is not simply a moment but is a sustainable movement for change. Our Wilkinson ERA leadership welcomed an honest, direct conversation about racial equity, diversity and inclusion and the BIPOC Committee was birthed from that willingness to listen, and most importantly, their commitment to taking action.”
Part of this work led to increased efforts to engage with minority-owned businesses and to create localized advertisements addressing the gaps in homeownership between Black and White populations.
We also looked inward at our hiring practices and have emphasized the importance of diverse talent. For example, we recently hired a new Broker-in-Charge. While extremely deserving of this position and our leading candidate, we recognized this member of our growth and development team as the first Black person to hold a leadership role in our company. Inspired by our recent progress, we will continue our forward momentum and intentionally work towards improving our hiring processes to ensure we can best represent the communities we serve.
Another major step was making NAR’s Implicit Bias training mandatory for our staff. We also encouraged our existing agents to take the course and now include the program in our new agent onboarding. Our experience with implicit bias training has been extremely valuable. It has helped us understand our unconscious thoughts and motivates us to further diminish bias.
Recently, we established a mentorship program that, in addition to providing guidance and support for new agents, can assist them in learning how to properly promote diversity and inclusion throughout their real estate business. Our mentorship program will extend to providing internships to college and university students to create opportunities for inclusion for leaders of color from a young age.
It has been 15 months of reflection and positive change within our company. The conversations have been honest and, oftentimes difficult, but we are moving in the right direction. The door has been opened for us to create change and reach the underserved potential homeowners in the Carolinas. Our commitment to building an inclusive culture is central to everything we do and a core component of our company values.
Diversity, equity and inclusion programs aren’t just a trend that will fizzle out in a few years’ time. There is a fundamental need for businesses that want to succeed now and in the future. The days of “checking boxes” are over. Now is the time to truly implement change.