In honor of International Women’s Day, we’re taking a look at ways we can break down the barriers and confront bias in the real estate industry.
More than just about any other industry, real estate is uniquely tied to the community. The agents and brokers who experience the most success have deep roots in the areas they serve. It makes sense, because clients have an expectation that their real estate professional can serve as a local guide to the community.
Today, the American community is changing at a rapid pace. The 2020 Census showed continuing demographic changes to the population, illustrating how America is becoming a much more multiracial society. In order to stay relevant to the communities it serves, the real estate industry needs to adapt to a changing America.
Both Realogy and What Moves Her have been out in front on this issue, working to promote more diversity, equity, and inclusion in the industry, and particularly with franchise ownership. The Realogy Inclusive Ownership Program offers financial, educational, and mentorship opportunities for potential franchise owners who are women, veterans, People of Color (POC) and/or identify as LGBTQ+. The importance of this initiative cannot be overstated. Sue Yannaccone, president and CEO of Realogy Franchise Group, put it best in this Franchise 500 article, when she said, “There are legitimate barriers to getting transactions done if we’re not serving people in the same language they’re speaking or with the same cultural values they’re looking for.”
At What Moves Her, our mission has always been to help women in the real estate industry elevate their careers and empower their communities. Tuesday, March 8 is International Women’s Day. The best way we can celebrate and honor that day is by doing the work, and making the commitment to make real change throughout our workplaces.
Diversity, equality, and inclusion are more than just trendy buzzwords. They are, quite simply, the future of our industry. DE&I represents a fundamental shift in our culture, one that finally allows us to provide equal access to opportunities and resources for people who might otherwise be excluded or marginalized. When it comes to creating real change, we all have a role to play.
The first step is awareness, including awareness of our own biases. The theme of this year’s International Women’s Day is #BreakTheBias. Their website offers a wide range of ways you can get involved. Another excellent resource is LeanIn, which offers tools and programs to learn to fight bias in the workplace.
The next step is to take concrete steps to mitigate the harmful effects of bias, particularly with regard to underrepresented groups like women and People of Color. These actions can make a big difference and help us #BreakTheBias:
- Focus on diverse talent. Starting at the top, place a premium on recruiting, hiring, and promoting diverse talent.
- Get involved. Become more involved in your community. Volunteer locally. At work, make a point to mentor others, especially those who are different from you. (Looking for more ideas? Last month’s blog post has some other thought starters.)
- Attend industry events focusing on diversity. Real estate associations are a great place to find solidarity or show your support as an ally. Here are some to learn more about:
- Lead by example. Always practice inclusive leadership in your organization. Make it a priority.
- Speak up. When you witness bias or behavior that excludes others, have the courage to speak up. For example, if a woman is interrupted in a meeting, make sure she gets a chance to voice her ideas as soon as possible. If someone tries to take credit for her ideas, make sure everyone knows they idea originated with her.
Realogy’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Strategy in Action
In 2021, Realogy welcomed Ivonne Furneaux as Vice President of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DE&I). In this role, she is challenging the status quo to drive equity and change. We recently spoke with Ivonne about the importance of an inclusive workforce in real estate, how individuals can support change, and actions we can take to strengthen the message of Diversity, Equality, and Inclusion.
Q: Why is it so important to build an inclusive workforce in the real estate industry?
Ivonne: Building a diverse workforce and inclusive workplace is critical to our ongoing and future success in the real estate industry. Our world is becoming increasingly diverse from a racial, ethnic and cultural perspective. We have more women in the workforce than ever. Gen Zs are entering the workplace in full force. And events in recent years – from the global pandemic to the social justice reckoning in the US – have changed how people view their career priorities. All of this means that we must strive for greater diversity and inclusion not just because it’s the right thing to do, but because it’s imperative for the survival and strength of our business.
In the real estate industry, while women have been and likely will remain the majority of the workforce, the industry itself has a long history being neither diverse nor inclusive. We must work intentionally to positively impact change to make the industry more welcoming and inclusive for all, to open opportunities for more people and to serve more diverse customers and communities.
Q: Sometimes the goals of DE&I can seem overwhelming. How can we as individuals help support change?
Ivonne: While it can feel overwhelming, the first step in supporting change is understanding where you are now, where you want to go and WHY you want to do it. In the case of supporting DE&I, on a personal level, it means understanding yourself and how your own identity and life experiences have shaped who you are and how you see the world. Then you have to ask yourself why supporting this change is important to you.
From there, it’s making the simple, personal commitment to learn more and do better. Each person’s journey will vary depending on their starting point, but it can be as simple as expanding your cultural lens – reading books by authors who don’t look like yourself, watching a foreign film, going to restaurants that serve types of food you’ve never tried before, taking a trip to a country you’ve never visited, attending an event that supports a group you don’t belong to personally (like going to a Pride parade even if you don’t identify as LGBTQ+), or seeking out conversations with new people from beyond your inner circle.
This personal commitment also means acknowledging your own biases and working to overcome them. For example, you may subconsciously have a preference for men over women if you’re hiring for an IT role, or you may have a particular idea of what it means to look or sound “professional.” Challenging yourself – and those around you – in those everyday moments is one of the most powerful ways you can support DE&I.
Q: What is an action we can all take today that will help strengthen the message of DE&I?
Ivonne: One way we can all amplify the message of DE&I is to express our individual support openly with courage and conviction, and align our actions accordingly. It’s not just saying it, but meaning it and doing it – walking the talk. For example, it’s not only saying out loud that you denounce racism, but also taking action if someone on your team uses a racial slur. It’s not only saying that inclusion is important to you, but also inviting new people to the table to share their opinions. The power of action is by far the best way to set an example and inspire others to do the same.
More Resources on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
We all need to be proactive when it comes to DE&I. Here are some articles that help frame the way this issue affects all of us.
- Leaders Who Authentically Embrace Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion Believe These 8 Things. This thought-provoking article from the Nonprofit Leadership Center details how truly inclusive leaders think and act and affect change.
- Why Diversity is Important in Real Estate. “Real estate professionals must recognize that it’s not about what they can’t do, but what they can.” This important editorial from RISMedia frames the issue in economic terms as well as a way to #BreakTheBias.
- Your Guide to the Love Your Power series. Are you a member of the What Moves Her community? Sue founded it in 2020 to “help women in the real estate industry develop their leadership skills and realize their professional development goals.” Open to both women and men, it’s a powerful community for driving change. Recently they hosted a “Love Your Power” series of videos focusing on how women can leverage their power to harness personal and professional success.
Now It’s Your Turn
How will you continue to #BreakTheBias and create change in the real estate industry?