Realtors Show Strong Commitment to Further DEI at Major Regional Conference
John Jordan | June 7, 2023
SLEEPY HOLLOW—Organizers of the second annual Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion Summit were in agreement that this year’s event, held on June 5 and 6 at the Sleepy Hollow Hotel & Conference Center here, featured a wide-ranged offering of programs and discussions geared at providing insights for real estate brokers, agents, as well as association boards and affiliates to ponder as they look to instill DEI practices and principles into their business and personal lives.
Among some of the key topics explored at The 2023 DEI Summit were the correlation between DEI and fair housing and implicit biases that continue to haunt the real estate industry.
Approximately 200 real estate professionals attended the 2023 DEI Summit. OneKey MLS was the premier sponsor. The hosts for the event were: the Hudson Gateway Association of Realtors, the National Association of Realtors, the New York State Association of Realtors, New Jersey Realtors, North Central Jersey Association of Realtors, the Greater Rochester Association of Realtors and the Greater Bergen (NJ) Realtors.
The summit began on June 5 with a Two-Hour NY CE Course entitled “Unmanaged Bias Limits Leadership” taught by HGAR DEI Officer Freddimir Garcia. A Networking Reception followed the conclusion of the class.
On June 6, the day began with welcoming addresses by 2023 NYSAR President elect Jacqueline Rose, and Robert White, 2023 Immediate Past President, New Jersey Realtors. The morning keynote speaker was Deanna Singh, Chief Change Agent and best-selling author whose presentation was entitled “Actions Speak Louder.”
Summit attendees then had the option to attend one of three topical breakout sessions—”The Community in People” panel was moderated by Nan Palumbo, HGAR YPN Chair and featured Soo Yu, AAREA; Christopher Cortez, NAHREP and Donnell Williams, NAREB. Leslie Frazier, Senior Vice President of Community and Industry Relations of the Virginia Realtors, led a discussion on “Dealing with Difficult Conversations, while Brennon Thompson, Analyst, Fair Housing Policy & Programs at the National Association of Realtors, moderated a panel that featured former NYSAR President Jennifer Vucetic, HGAR Past President Anthony Domathoti and Jorge Ledesma, CEO, Greater Bergen Realtors.
The morning program concluded with a panel discussion moderated by Teresa Tilton, Director of Professional Services, New Jersey Realtors, entitled “Increase Generational Wealth Building for Black & Hispanic Homeowners” that focused primarily on Freddie Mac programs and other affordable housing finance solutions.
The Afternoon Keynote speaker was best-selling author Kelly McDonald who offered tangible recommendations on “How to Make Progress on DE&I in Your Organization.”
The afternoon breakout sessions included a “Realtor Safety & Racism” panel moderated by Alexia Smokler, Director of Fair Housing Policy & Programs at NAR, that featured riveting and sometimes frightening personal examples of discrimination shared by Bill Flagg, the 2022 President of the North Central Jersey Association of Realtors, and Realtor Eric Brown. Session attendees were riveted by Brown, a black Realtor, who recounted an incident in August 2021 when he and several clients on a home tour were mistakenly handcuffed by Michigan police who mistook them for burglars. Brown noted that while he and his clients were eventually released and not arrested, several officers had their guns drawn before he proved to police that he was in fact a licensed Realtor legally showing the home to prospective clients.
The second breakout session “Intent vs Impact: Tackling Microaggressions” was led by HGAR’s DEI Officer Garcia. The third breakout session covered “Building a DEI Committee” and was led by Anthony Ruperto, HGAR DEI Committee Chair.
The Closing Keynote Speaker was M. Ryan Gorman, Co-Founder/Unmanageable Partner, btcRE, LLC, who closed the two-day seminar with a presentation entitled: “DE&I Leadership Lessons Learned.”
Event sponsors were pleased with the increased attendance at the 2023 DE&I Summit and expressed their intent to stage and participate in a summit in 2024.
HGAR President Tony D’Anzica said, “I am really happy with the way the summit turned out. I am especially happy with the collaboration that we have been able to continue with our Realtor associations in New Jersey and Upstate New York. I do believe this is a conversation we have to have. It reflects what our Realtor values are and together as a group with associations in the entire region, we should be spreading the message to all our members, not just to one select group.”
HGAR Past President Domathoti, who led the HGAR efforts at the first DEI Summit held in 2022 in Mahwah, NJ, said of the 2023 summit, “It is a significant event in the calendar of the Hudson Gateway Association of Realtors and the participating associations. It is about time that all the agencies and associations are recognizing the need for DE&I and this event is a representation of that recognition. I truly believe this event is a step forward in creating a lot more activities by associations that are inclusive of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.”
Richard Haggerty, CEO of OneKey MLS, who along with Flagg, helped organize the first DEI Summit, said he was pleased with the increased attendance and enhanced program offerings at the 2023 summit.
Haggerty, former CEO of the Hudson Gateway Association of Realtors, said, “I think the program has been excellent and I am happy that it has the same energy, if not more, than the inaugural DEI event last year.”
He added, “DEI is a process. It is a journey and we have to commit to the journey and it doesn’t happen overnight and it will probably never reach a final destination, but we have to make as much progress as we can while we are going along on that journey.”
Haggerty added that the first two summits have been a “tremendous success” due to the fact that they have been and will continue to be a collaborative effort involving so many associations ·
Haggerty, as well as HGAR’s D’Anzica and Domathoti, all said they are committed to staging a DEI Summit next year.