The significance of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) in business environments has risen in recent years. In today’s fast-evolving business landscape, embracing diversity is seen as both a moral imperative and a key competitive advantage. Yet, as agents and brokerages march toward inclusive policies, they often face resistance from various quarters.
Recently, the Supreme Court ruled against affirmative action in college admissions, arguing that considering prospective students’ race when determining admission violates the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment.
While the case and verdict have no direct legal impact on private businesses, the Supreme Court’s ruling on the Students for Fair Admissions (SFFA) case may raise questions for many industries, including real estate, about how diversity, equity and inclusion policies may affect them, perhaps leading to opposition to diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives.
How this affects real estate
High-profile cases can influence societal perceptions of fairness, discrimination and inclusivity, potentially affecting consumer behavior in markets like real estate. Agents may find themselves navigating more nuanced conversations with clients who have strong opinions on affirmative action and related DEI issues.
Also, real estate brokerages might examine their DEI programs, striving to balance fostering diversity and avoiding potential legal pitfalls. Real estate brokerages may consider how they recruit and train agents to ensure they are neither discriminatory nor vulnerable to litigation.
In this article, we’ll explore potential explanations for any opposition to DEI initiatives in the real estate industry and equip real estate brokerages and agents with strategies to address these challenges.
Understanding opposition to diversity
Diversity fosters innovation, broadens perspectives and aids in global reach. So why would anyone be against it? Let’s look at some potential explanations:
Some people may lack exposure to these conversations, leading to misconceptions about diversity. Some might perceive diversity initiatives as providing an unfair advantage to specific groups.
Some professionals might believe that DEI initiatives will drain resources, divert attention from the core business focus, or that these initiatives disfavor meritocracy.
Resistance to DEI initiatives may not be overt or intentional. Instead, implicit biases can shape one’s worldview and response to diversity initiatives.
Fear of discomfort
Engaging with diverse groups may necessitate difficult conversations and self-reflection, leading some individuals to resist various DEI initiatives.
Strategies to address challenges
So what can you do in your own business to implement DEI best practices and help your agents and staff?
Regular diversity and inclusion training can address misconceptions, dispel myths and give agents the tools to engage productively in diverse environments.
Keller Williams Realty and many other companies offer their agents a variety of diversity training opportunities. Some of these include classes that teach the history of land ownership and the agents’ role in real estate, address how the unconscious mind affects our interactions with clients, and provide agents with the tools, training, and resources needed to reach a broader audience.
When top executives visibly support and champion diversity, it sends a strong message about the company’s priorities. When leadership communicates the reasons behind diversity initiatives and shares data and research on its benefits, this counters the narrative that these programs are merely for optics.
Foster an environment where concerns and questions about DEI can be openly discussed. Open dialogue with agents and clients about the company’s stance on DEI can promote understanding and preemptively address concerns. Making these conversations commonplace allows you to dispel myths and meet biases head-on in real time.
Highlight success stories
Regularly share stories of diverse agents and teams who have achieved superior results in the industry. Their narratives can inspire others and demonstrate the tangible benefits of a diverse workforce.
Highlight financial benefits and the business case for diversity
Remember, there is a business case for diversity. The benefits of a diverse workforce are numerous. A reputation for inclusivity can attract top talent from all backgrounds. Having different perspectives leads to fresh ideas and innovation.
Reflecting the diversity of your client base can improve connections and understanding and cater to a broader range of clients, leading to increased sales and profit. Real estate businesses can emphasize that DEI is good for business by showcasing the financial incentives.
While challenges to diversity initiatives can be complex, addressing these challenges, as highlighted above, could create opportunities for growth and dialogue.
Demonstrating a consistent dedication to DEI initiatives and their benefits will set the tone for the entire organization. Real estate agents and businesses will not just create a more inclusive environment, but they will also position themselves for unparalleled success in an ever-diversifying market.
By making a clear and compelling case for the advantages of diversity, brokers and agents can pave the way for an inclusive, harmonious and prosperous future.
As the head of inclusion and belonging for Keller Williams Realty International, Julia Lashay Israel advises, trains and coaches leaders, team members and agents to recognize and address diversity, equity and inclusion opportunities and challenges across the organization.