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Bringing Gender Inclusivity Into Real Estate, Beyond Women's History Month

While it’s important that we dedicate the month of March to celebrating the progression of gender equality, it should also serve as a reminder that there is still a lot of work that needs to be done during the other 11 months of the year, especially in all areas of the real estate industry.

The most recent data from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission shows virtually no improvement in women’s leadership in real estate: Women made up 30% of executive-level managers and 45% of midlevel managers in 2017, compared to 30% and 43%, respectively, in 2007.

Creating a well-balanced culture was a conscious choice for me as I built CORE, not only because it’s the right thing to do, but because it’s the environment that’s shaped who I am. As a son, brother, husband and father of two daughters, I’m surrounded on all sides by strong women. They are the foundation of my success. That’s why it gives me great pride that women make up 67% of our management team and 60% of our agents.

This makeup doesn’t go unnoticed by industry peers, and I’m often asked how we’ve been able to recruit and retain such a diverse group of individuals at the top of their game. My answer? Building a company where everyone is treated equally isn’t rocket science. Culture is what helps a business attract quality people year after year. Diversity is part of our DNA, but I never take for granted how special it is to have so many women leaders choose our firm as their professional home.

When someone asks how they can increase gender diversity within their firm, it shows awareness and a desire to be inclusive. Here are just a few of the important things I kept in mind when building my business that other companies can do right now to progress toward a more balanced work environment.

1. Start With Respect

A common misconception is that in order to have a strong team, everyone must think and behave exactly the same. This is why a lot of companies have teams that look like carbon copies of one another. There seems to be no acknowledgment of the fact that different ideas, personalities and backgrounds can achieve the same goals. Respect is the perfect place to start.

Respect the fact that differences are what make a team stronger. Every team faces challenges. Having a group of men and women with a wide range of experiences ensures there are no shortages of opinions and ideas on how to solve them. When individuals feel their uniqueness is respected, it builds trust within the group, which is the foundation of any successful company.

2. Don't Change Your Culture To Fit The Applicant

When hiring, look for the most qualified person for the position, but make sure that the individual also has the mindset to champion diversity as well. Remember the expression, “One bad apple can spoil the whole barrel”? Take this seriously. Ask interview questions that get to the heart of how a person works, and don’t just check off boxes about the competency of completing the task at hand. It’s better to hire someone who has a little less experience, but a great outlook. An executive or manager can teach job specifics. What can’t be taught is a team-first mentality. Look for the best, but what should be most important is finding a team first, open-minded individual. That is a must to maintain a strong culture.

3. Work In The Year 2019

Allow flexibility for executives to fit life into the workday. Sitting at a desk all day, every day does not translate to working smart, and it does not yield the best production. Keep in mind that your team members have important titles outside of the office as well: Wife, husband, father, mother, etc. Children get sick, personal situations arise in the middle of a day. This is 2019. Technology provides us every possible way to conduct business, from the back seat of a cab to the kitchen table. Nothing can replace a face-to-face meeting, but understanding that the people on your team have a life outside of work and giving them the freedom to live it while trusting them to get the job done is a necessity to attracting and retaining the right people.

4. Keep The Lines Of Communication Open

Have an open-door policy. Make everything transparent. Don’t be inaccessible as a leader, or make your team feel as though they can only speak to you when it’s urgent. Make sure they know they can talk to you about anything, and in case there are any doubts, remind them frequently. Handle any miscommunications or missteps face to face, not via email, so that tone and intention are crystal clear. Don’t let things simmer or fester, and handle problems out in the open. When everyone knows that their feelings and opinions matter, it eliminates drama, which is the No. 1 suppressant of any good team environment.

These are just a few of the values I leaned on when building and maintaining the gender diverse culture at my firm. For us, it’s been a success. Transparency and inclusivity over the past 14 years have helped the women on our team feel empowered to reach their highest potential. I hope other companies, especially the ones that use Women’s History Month as a time to market their commitment to prioritizing gender equality, will place emphasis on gender inclusion over the other 11 months of the year. Imagine what could be done if everyone who spoke loud and clear about their intentions in March also took action when the calendar changed to April.

Post written by Shaun Osher, Founder and CEO of CORE - the number one boutique residential real estate marketing and sales company in New York.

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