Although the Illinois REALTORS® Fall Business Meetings were in September, I thought it was pertinent to recap and discuss the need for diversity, inclusion, and education in our industry. Striking a balance between uncomfortable discussions on racism and a safe environment is ideal for REALTORS® to learn what they may or may not know. The information is as important now as it was a few months ago when presented and will continue to be an area that Mainstreet REALTORS® along with other local associations, the state, and National will need to focus on in order to make a change. Together, we can make a difference.
The forum was led by IR Business Issue Forum’s Chair Jeff Gregory and Vice Chair Sarah Ware. The panel was rounded out by Nate Johnson, President of Real Estate Solutions @ Realkey Realty Leaders, Jasmyn Jefferson, a branch manager at Windermere Real Estate, and Michelle Walker, Broker-Owner of STL Buy & Sell, REALTORS®.
The panel noted obvious obstacles in our industry regarding the need to acknowledge that racism exists in real estate and that talk must move beyond advocacy and into policy that is followed and regulated. For instance, Mr. Johnson noted that while Fair Housing laws were passed in 1968, homeownership among blacks is lower now than when the Act was passed.
The panelists also considered whether Fair Housing training and education should be mandatory, similar to Ethics training. Mandating Fair Housing education can create a safe space for all REALTORS® to learn what they don’t know about themselves and how they do business. In order to realize uncomfortable truths about ourselves, the ability to learn, grow, and improve in an understanding and supportive environment is key to creating and implementing change.
Industry tools were also considered during the meeting. Forewarn, an app and benefit for Mainstreet REALTORS® and other association members, was discussed. The panel examined the need to educate those who use the app, emphasizing the importance of utilizing it in a wholly consistent manner for every person an agent does business with in order to avoid fair housing violations and to simply do the right thing.
In a similar vein, lead production tools also came into the conversation. Panelists stressed the importance for agents to understand the significance of not rejecting leads due to a potential client’s name or search area. It was further discussed that perhaps masking tools could be implemented, requiring only essential details from all consumers – excluding the individual’s name and location – may assist towards treating all consumers equally.
REALTOR® associations can also take steps to understand and make impactful change as well. It was encouraged that all associations provide diversity training for their executive staff, Board of Directors, committee chairs, and vice chairs. Moving in this direction demonstrates the need and willingness for everyone in the industry to learn more about themselves. By starting with association leadership, the word will trickle down into association committees, and from there to the general membership.
Finally, panelists recognized the need to challenge themselves to evolve their personal sphere to include people unlike themselves. The speakers cited the importance of “changing the color of your individual circle.” By doing so, you will not only broaden your network into personally uncharted areas, but you may also find a joy in discovering new cultures and outlooks.
Panelists Nate Johnson summed up the meeting with a profound statement to us all:
“If you’re not intentionally inclusive, then you are unintentionally exclusive.”
Mainstreet continues to take steps to ensure that all members feel represented, respected, and safe in our REALTOR® family. We have created a new Diversity Task Force. The task force will assist Mainstreet in making impactful changes. Together, we can make a difference.