Growing Your Business Through Diversity and Inclusion

It’s a new year and a new beginning for the Columbus REALTORS® Diversity and Inclusion Committee. Starting as a task force in August 2018, it became a standing committee in November of the same year, with its first official committee meeting held on Jan. 15, 2019.

In addition to its inaugural meeting, the committee was fortunate to bring in the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) Director of Diversity, Fred Underwood.

Our then task force had developed preliminary plans for how to proceed and implement activities for 2019. In a conversation with Mr. Underwood, Jeff Cotner, 2019 Co-chair of the Diversity & Inclusion Committee, and myself shared our committee’s mission and goals and asked for his feedback. We had a great conversation and he thought our members would benefit from his diversity training class, which was held here on Tuesday, Jan. 23, 2019.

In my opinion, it was a great three-hour training session that was taped by staff from NAR to be shared and used by other REALTOR® associations.

Highlights of this training session included an explanation of the benefits of a diverse and inclusive Association with leadership and staff that reflect the community. It makes both good business and good political sense, improves professionalism and helps an Association reach and engage all of its members. And, with changing demographics resulting in increasingly more diverse communities, it puts the Association in a stronger position to be more politically influential by representing a more diverse group of constituents. As REALTORS®, we want to be the voice of real estate in all of our communities. Without everyone represented, the training suggests, an Association can be less credible.

For this training, ‘Diversity’ was defined by ethnic diversity, generational representatives, different abilities, geography, sexual orientation, different business models, and other. Mr. Underwood talked about how these diverse entities can sometimes overlap.

He also described a path to inclusion, which includes discovery (realizing that diversity and inclusion need to be a priority), action (developing a pool of diverse leaders must be rooted in the Association purpose), and realization (evidence of an increased, involved diverse membership).

From what was gleaned during this training, it seems our Committee is moving along the correct path. We are diverse and growing with current members from African, African American, Asian, Latino, LGBT, military, other abled, and white communities. We continue to engage and seek to ensure that more community voices, especially members of the protected classes, are seated at the table.

Each quarter, the committee will host a forum on various topics related to diversity and inclusion. Our first quarter forum, ‘Growing your Business through Diversity and Inclusion,’ is set for Wednesday, March 27, 2019, 1:30p at Columbus REALTORS®.

Jason Reece Ph.D., Assistant Professor, City & Regional Planning, Knowlton School of Architecture, The Ohio State University, will lead this forum, focusing on demographic changes that have occurred in and around Columbus, the link between these changes and why addressing diversity and inclusion in real estate is important.

After his presentation, Dr. Reece will moderate a panel with participants representing the Latino, immigrant (Somali), African American and LGTB communities, sharing obstacles encountered by persons of their community during their home buying search.

We are also planning to host 'Lunch and Learn' events throughout the year and have one in the works that once finalized will be made public.

Our mission is to increase awareness of fair housing issues, eliminate intolerance and biased behavior among real estate practitioners and the public and to grow diverse leadership within the Columbus REALTORS® Association.

Toward that end, we plan to provide an arena for open dialog on issues affecting fair housing; host forums highlighting awareness of diversity and inclusion issues; network with other affiliate organizations and institute associations; and cultivate participation and leadership opportunities. 

Though seemingly lofty, the Committee plans to stay steady on the journey to meet (and possibly exceed) our committee’s mission. As learned in the ‘Leading with Diversity’ training, it is important to make diversity and inclusion a part of the fabric of the Association and not just have it be a one-off event.

Please come, support, and gain knowledge about Diversity and Inclusion at our events and at committee meetings held the third Tuesday each month, 1:30p at Columbus REALTORS®!