An inclusive organization values all members for who they are, not just what they look like, how much money they make or how much power they hold.

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The word “inclusive” seems to be everywhere these days but I am not sure what it means. It is often used with the word “diversity.”

I was recently told by a member that one of the associations that I belong to is “much more inclusive.” I have heard this before. When I asked for an example I was told that I just didn’t understand.

Being told that I do not understand (which is true) and then not being offered an explanation can make a person feel excluded, yet if I am a member I am (or should be) included.

Members may not represent an association in the same way that association leaders do, but what they say and how they treat other members matters.

Going beyond a superficial definition of inclusiveness

Having new pictures on an association or company website of those young men with varying skin tones and that one beautiful woman with brown skin and braids doesn’t make an organization more diverse or more inclusive.

In fact, if people in the organization are all young and photogenic the organization isn’t very diverse.

Sometimes members of our Realtor associations talk about how wonderful it is to work with so many “like-minded people.” A preference for working with “like-minded” people may be the opposite of being inclusive. If you have never had a conversation with someone who isn’t like-minded, I highly recommend giving it a try.

If your group includes only the best and the brightest it isn’t inclusive. Chances are no one is testing intelligence and there probably isn’t a way to measure who is better or best.

Being able to judge someone’s intelligence or “bestness” looks more like privilege than like leadership.

Who gets to decide who ‘matters’?

Lately, after various events, I see comments about how “everyone who matters was there.” Apparently, there are people in the world who don’t matter, and maybe I am one of them and do not know it.

There are opportunities to be more inclusive. Every time we hire or appoint a friend we are missing out on an opportunity.

The friend is talented and qualified but there might be someone out there who can bring in new ideas and help change an organization’s culture to one that is more inclusive.

In an inclusive group, there is transparency. There are no hidden rules of behavior that are apparent to some and unknown to others.

When some of the top jobs in associations and MLSs are open they are not even advertised. The “right” people know that the job is open and they apply.

The very best way to attract a diverse slate of candidates is to advertise the job opening and have a transparent hiring process.

Some of the top positions in associations and MLSs seem to be lifetime appointments. Is that healthy for any organization?

In an inclusive organization employees or members are recognized for their actions and accomplishments, not their titles or roles or who their friends or parents are.

Inclusion can be measured by a sense of belonging, connection and community. It’s really about how people feel connected to an organization.

In an inclusive organization, we don’t expect people to change so that they fit in. We instead incorporate people with various backgrounds and points of view into the organization and the organization changes because of it.

We rarely consider economic diversity when considering diversity or inclusion. The people who earn the most money are not solving the affordable housing crisis or narrowing the homeownership gap. We wrongly assume that if a person doesn’t make a certain amount of money they are not the best or brightest.

Fair housing is all about inclusion. Where we live and what type of housing we live in have a huge impact on our lives and the lives of our families. Can the public count on us to be inclusive and fair when it comes to helping people with housing, or is housing just for the best and brightest and we get to decide who they are?

Maybe in 2023, we can work toward valuing members of our organizations. Being inclusive goes beyond allowing people to join. An inclusive organization values all members for who they are.

Teresa Boardman is a Realtor and broker/owner of Boardman Realty in St. Paul, Minnesota. She is also the founder of

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