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I remember when NAR, the National Association of REALTORS®, invited me to participate in a panel session on diversity at their national convention back in 2002. I had never been to a NAR convention but had heard that they were huge with 20,000+ attendees. I was well prepared for the event and excited about the opportunity. I didn’t expect it would be a marquee session, but I also didn’t expect what occurred. Out of 20,000 attendees, a mere 13 would show up for my session, and half of them left before the session was over. It was embarrassing. I vowed to myself not to participate in diversity events in the future. Ten years later a sponsor of NAHREP asked me to participate in a session at their global conference about, you guessed it, diversity. It’s hard to say no to a sponsor. Ten years had passed and the subject of diversity at industry events was more common, so I agreed. This time WAS different, there were 22 people in the room.
Today, the subject of diversity is everywhere. Almost every major company claims diversity is a core value and has a chief diversity officer who reports to the CEO. However, let’s be honest, other than people who are in the business of diversity, not many people are interested in the subject. Why is that? If diversity truly is a strength of a corporation, as many express it is, why doesn’t everyone inside an organization strive for it? I think there are a handful of reasons. First, I think a lot of people don’t actually believe diversity is a strength, in fact, they may think it is a weakness. Although they would never say it. Some believe it forces companies to hire and promote less qualified people for the sake of optics. Secondly, nobody likes things that are forced on them. Despite what they say, most people view diversity as a compliance issue, like affirmative action and fair lending. Compliance only adds cost and constrains growth. It’s a pain in the ass. Finally, people view diversity as a matter of political correctness, and people, regardless of where they stand politically, are at minimum fatigued with political correctness. They are just tired of it.
I think the data shows diversity is a strength when its executed correctly. At NAHREP, you won’t find the word diversity anywhere in marketing or our programs. Instead, you’ll find words like growth, profit, and market share. You’ve probably heard me say that Latinos are the drivers of economic growth in America. They account for the majority of our workforce gains, small business growth, and new homeowners. It’s all true…and yes, there are companies making billions by marketing to Hispanic customers. I am never going to disparage any company or organization for deploying a diversity strategy, but diversity for the sake of diversity is a waste of time, and it turns your employees off. Diversity strategies only work when they are accompanied by education. People need to better understand the “why”, and the why should be less about fairness and discrimination and more about growth and profit. Personally, I think we need fewer diversity initiatives and more case studies. And we need to update our nomenclature. Our tagline at L’ATTITUDE is “The Gateway to the New Mainstream Economy”.
When my son was younger, he asked me if he needs to be super-tall to make it to the NBA, and I said no… but it helps. That’s the best case for diversity I can make. You don’t need to be Hispanic to attract more Hispanic customers, but it helps.