GATEWAY PERSPECTIVES: Embracing Diversity

Richard Haggerty | February 23, 2022

HGAR Chief Executive Officer Richard Haggerty

When HGAR conducted our Diversity, Equity and Inclusion survey last year we had close to a 9% response rate. While we would have liked a higher response rate, 9% was a terrific start. Overall, the feedback to the survey was very positive, though we did receive some comments questioning why we were conducting the survey. Some of those comments ranged from, “what difference does it make what race or sexual orientation I am, it shouldn’t matter,” to “stop being so PC!”

Another common observation that was made on more than one survey response was the comment that Realtors should be color-blind. Race, ethnicity, religion, etc. are all immaterial to a Realtor when working with buyers and sellers, landlords and tenants. That is certainly true enough when Realtors are rendering services—everyone should be treated the same based upon their financial qualifications. That has been how Realtors have been taught for decades. However, the Newsday story “Long Island Divided,” published in late 2019 and chronicling in great detail rampant discriminatory behavior on the part of real estate licensees, clearly demonstrated that approach is not working. It’s long past time for a reset on Fair Housing instruction.

The Newsday story led to New York State Senate hearings where the respondent real estate licensees were very reluctant participants. Not only did the testimony reflect extremely poorly on our industry, it also illustrated that part of the problem was a lack of supervision on behalf of the respondent offices.

Based on the testimony and evidence presented at those hearings, the New York State Senate passed a number of bills that were eventually signed by Gov. Kathy Hochul to address discriminatory behavior in the real estate profession, and all will take effect this year. I want to touch upon two of those bills. One requires “implicit bias” training as part of the core requirements for every continuing education cycle. Another requires “cultural competency” training as part of the core requirements for every continuing education cycle.

These new requirements of implicit bias training and cultural competency training mark a shift in direction when it comes to fair housing training. It’s no longer a narrative about ignoring differences—it’s now a narrative about understanding and embracing differences.

This month is Black History Month, and HGAR has focused considerable attention on the experiences of African Americans in this country. Last year, Past President Crystal Hawkins-Syska, only the second black President of HGAR in its history, devoted a tremendous amount of time researching and writing about the black experience at a local level, which we published on a daily basis. Next month is Women’s History Month and President Anthony Domathoti, HGAR’s first President of Indian decent, is planning several sessions acknowledging the many contributions of women leaders in our market place. This is our shared history and experiences and it is important that we learn about them and acknowledge them.

So, why did we conduct a DEI survey? To put it simply, to get to know our members better. Knowing the diversity of our membership helps us create a more welcoming and inclusive association. It’s important to understand, celebrate and embrace our differences, recognizing our diversity makes us stronger as a Realtor community and also makes us more empathetic members of our communities.

Diversity makes us stronger, and I encourage you to discuss ways of embracing diversity in your offices. HGAR’s DEI Officer, Freddy Garcia, is a terrific resource on how to start those conversations, and he can be reached at Freddimir.Garcia@HGAR.com.

Richard Haggerty
HGAR CEO