A close friend from an affluent African American family was relocating back to her home state. Their Realtor showed them homes all over the city but none within the neighborhood in which they had previously resided. When my friend asked about homes in that area, she was told that she would not want to live there, quoting crime statistics. My friend was appalled when she learned that the crime rate was actually as high or higher in the areas her Realtor had shown her.
Upon further investigation, it was determined that most real estate companies in this city would not show homes in this area unless specifically asked. This is an issue that I’m sure is not specific to this city and state or even this industry. Bias lives everywhere. Think about what this does to a community’s economic structure. Retail businesses cannot flourish and restaurants and grocery stores cannot survive even if they try to service the area. Going deeper, a sense of community is lost as poverty increases dictating that the only people who live in these areas are those who cannot afford to go anywhere else, thereby creating food deserts, poor education, and a lack of healthcare among other issues. Of course, this is not the sole reason for these problems but certainly a factor. Realtors can help their clients to see the value in all areas of a city, creating growth and economic stability.
The real estate and mortgage industry has been riddled with claims of bias and discrimination throughout history, and it seems apparent that a culture of inclusion is not moving quickly enough. The real estate industry can make a tremendous difference regarding diversity and inclusion in our communities in a way that most other industries cannot simply by focusing on humanity through the concepts of Diversity and Inclusion.
In this article, I’m going to outline a few key concepts within the field of diversity and inclusion that I believe are most relevant and useful for mortgage and real estate professionals to create a community of inclusion. This includes organizational guiding principles, diverse recruitment practices, and multicultural marketing techniques.
- Guiding Principles
Gain a Personal Commitment from the CEO and Other Senior-Level Executives. Without buy-in from leadership, it is difficult to create an open environment, much less a zero-tolerance policy for discrimination. Every employee needs to understand your organization’s culture. According to Catalyst.org, 50 percent of employees felt a stronger sense of inclusion when they felt personally attached to their company’s core values.
Include Diversity and Inclusion Language in All Mission, Purpose, and Core Value Statements.
You can easily create a policy that focuses on equity, whether it is for showing homes in different neighborhoods across your city (or or encouraging real estate partners to do so) and encouraging your team to get involved in community outreach initiatives that support underserved markets. According to Deloitte.com, 83 percent of millennials are engaged when they believe an organization fosters an inclusive culture.
Note: If your diversity and inclusion content falls short of reality, your employees will make it known—if not privately to you, then through other, more public channels. Your employees are your company ambassadors—if they speak poorly of your culture, people outside of the company will find out soon enough.
Implement Diversity Metrics to Measure Progress toward Inclusion
I have seen many ways to measure diversity and inclusion. Some even include mathematical equations! However, we are talking about people. You cannot measure humanity through math. You can create employee engagement surveys, focus groups, and an environment where people will speak freely without fear. By focusing on people instead of programming, you affect your organization organically. I am not saying that programming doesn’t work, but I have seen companies put too much time into programs that don’t touch people
- Diverse Workforce. People are the key to building an inclusive culture. The demographics are changing. You cannot keep pulling from the same talent pool of your network of colleagues, which often results in a monolithic demographic. In the next twenty years (or fewer), people of color will be the majority and with that comes a diverse customer base with changing preferences. Hiring diverse employees will help immensely in this area. They will draw upon their own diversity for a diverse clientele and will understand cultural nuances that can support your strategy.
- Attracting Diverse Customers. Your customer base is changing as rapidly as your employee base. Are you ready for what’s next? Does your marketing material reflect the changes? Do you have bilingual representatives? Is your messaging inclusive, or are you alienating particular groups? Be unconventional. Look beyond traditional advertising venues to attract your clients and consider partnerships with community leaders and organizations within diverse markets. Go beyond sticking multicultural families in your brochures. You need a presence in diverse communities to gain new clients.
Once diversity and inclusion is woven into your company’s operational fabric and your own personal habits, you will begin to see growth in your company and, more importantly, see positive change in our communities.
Risha Grant is a diversity and inclusion consultant and the author of That’s BS! How Bias Synapse Disrupts Inclusive Cultures and the Power to Attract Diverse Markets. Email her at email@example.com.