*This story was originally featured in the July issue of MReport*
In today’s world, most of us hear the words ‘diversity’ and ‘inclusion’ too often in our industry, but what is diversity? Diversity is acknowledging that we are all different individuals and that such differences are what make us unique. Inclusion is what brings the concept of diversity to life.
Diversity is the sum of the ways that people are both alike and different. The dimensions of diversity include race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, language, culture, religion, mental and physical ability, class, and immigration status. While diversity itself is not a value-laden term, the way that people react to diversity is driven by values, attitudes, beliefs, and so on. Full acceptance of diversity is a major principle of social justice.
Inclusion is the active, intentional, and ongoing engagement with diversity at intellectual, social, cultural, and geographical levels with which individuals might connect in ways that increase one’s awareness, content knowledge, cognitive sophistication, and empathic understanding of the complex ways individuals interact within systems and institutions.
The Diversity Advantage
Diversity efforts can offer several business benefits.
Increased productivity: Employees feel more comfortable in a diverse environment where all individuals are accepted and praised for their differences; in turn, they are happy doing their jobs and are more productive.
Increased creativity: Diversity fosters the recognition of differences as unique strengths of each person. Singular races, cultural backgrounds, languages, religions, sexual orientations, and ethnicities by nature produce creative thinking, as each of us sees things from a different perspective magnified by our dissimilarities.
Increased problem-solving: Diverse environments are more inclined to promote out-of-the-box thinking when solving problems and facing difficulties.
Attract new talent: A key element in the workplace to attract and most importantly to retain new talent is to be diverse. A diverse organization will appeal to all sorts of persons who have unique talents that could be exceptional competitive advantages in such an aggressive business environment.
Synergy between teams: Inclusion of diverse employees promotes acceptance, which fosters teamwork where each person is seen as an essential piece to the overall success of the team.
Greater communication: The presence of diversity invites open means of communication where each opinion is heard and valued, not treated as isolated and different. Employees will voice concerns much more easily than in environments that are not diverse.
Enhanced business reputation: Nowadays, businesses must make greater efforts to be diverse and promote inclusion of diversity. When they are not, they are negatively perceived by many sectors of our society. Market share increases as businesses display more diversity efforts.
Expanded to global markets: The diversity of languages and cultures opens the door to expansion in international and global markets from which those differences derive. The market of the 20th century is not a local or national economy, but instead it is a global market space.
Nonetheless, beyond all the positive consequences, there are some challenges to diversity and inclusion.
Mis-communication: Ineffective communication of organizational objectives due to cultural and language barriers can negatively impact teamwork.
Resistance to change: There will always be those who refuse to change or adapt to change because it may seem complicated at first, or simply different.
Implementation of diversity policies: Organizations need to develop a strategy and implement a plan to promote diversity and inclusion in the workplace.
Successful management of diversity: A culture of diversity must be established by educating employees and continuously measuring diversity and inclusion.
The Diversity Landscape in America
In our country, the implementation of diversity in the workplace started when people of color and women entered the labor force. As our society progresses, the concept of diversity keeps evolving as well. Today, the LGBTQ community is an essential part of our labor force in general.
As our country still promotes the American Dream to the rest of the world, immigrants continue to transform the makeup of our workplace. According to Nielsen Research, today, 51 percent of children aged nine and under have multicultural origins, and by 2017, fewer than five in 10 Americans will be classified as white non-Hispanic. The fastest-growing minority is Hispanic Americans; by 2020, this group will compose 54 percent of the U.S. population; by 2030, it will increase to 64 percent and by 2060, to a shocking 85 percent. The next fastest-growing minority is Asian-Americans, followed by Multi-Racial Americans.
The United States is in the middle of a major demographic change, comparable to when the baby boomers transformed the make-up of our country in the last century. Minorities will make an increasing impact on society, the economy, and politics. This minority growth occurs as the white non-Hispanic population is aging and slowing its growth. However, the transformation of these minority groups into the majority of the population of the United States is not only happening due to immigration but mainly due to U.S.-born Americans of minority descent.
Is Real Estate Lagging Behind?
However, despite of all these demographic changes, is the real estate industry truly diverse? We have made significant progress, but we still have a long way to advance.
The New York real estate magazine, The Real Deal, exposed this fact in its January edition in an articled titled, ”Real Estate’s Diversity Problem.” The article was about how real estate in New York has long been viewed as an insular world where white men pull the strings. While issues of discrimination and diversity are starting to be addressed in other industries, what are New York’s developers and brokers doing to level the playing field? In the cover story of its January 2017 issue, The Real Deal took an in-depth look at the real estate’s exclusionary culture, the female and minority players who defied the odds and made it big, and what it might take for the industry to change.
In the residential arena of real estate, women and minorities are present, but the highest-ranking positions are still retained mostly by white male non-Hispanics. In the commercial field, women have made strides, but minorities remain largely absent. This has been the norm historically, and sadly there are very few signs of advancement toward diversity and inclusion. Some of the major barriers of entry for minorities and women as investors or business owners in the real estate industry are lack of access to capital, an insufficient business network for support and opportunities, and absence of essential skills to lead a business.
The Path Ahead
Generations have different perspectives in diversity and inclusion. Baby boomers and Generation X-ers see these concepts as the right thing to do, while, millennials see it as an essential element to business success. As a millennial in the real estate industry, my hope is that we can brainstorm about diversity and inclusion and implement strategies in order to reduce the race and gender wealth gaps and correct the income and wealth inequality. This is the big elephant in the room that we love to talk about but really don’t want to deal with. It is a reality. It is here. Embrace diversity, or millennials will leave you behind.
Adriana Montes, J.D., is a self-made woman-minority business owner who immigrated from Colombia to the U.S. at the age of 18 not knowing any English and built a real estate empire, achieving her American Dream. A firm believer in education, Montes completed her Juris Doctorate from Thomas Cooley Law School, Western Michigan University. She has a master’s in Business Administration with a specialization in nonprofits and a bachelor’s degree in Finance and Marketing from the University of Central Florida. Montes has been recognized by the National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals as one of the top 250 Latino Agents in the U.S.