For nearly 50 years Windermere has been deeply rooted in the communities where we do business. However, the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement has made us realize that our roots don’t extend as deep as we thought. It also made us realize that over the decades, the real estate industry has played a significant role in exacerbating systemic racism through redlining and steering, which has prevented many members of historically marginalized communities from building wealth through homeownership.
This summer, we began a robust diversity, equity, and inclusion journey supported by an organization called Moving Beyond that specializes in helping companies integrate and operationalize DEI. Next, we formed two internal workgroups, with a diverse makeup of Windermere franchise owners, managers, agents, and staff to guide and implement DEI efforts across our 10-state organization.
Following three months of collective conversations, we have identified several short- and long-term initiatives on which to focus – all with the aim of building a diverse organization that fosters a sense of belonging and provides equal opportunity across all aspects of homeownership for people of color. Some of these activities can be acted upon right away, as we develop a long-term strategic direction for our DEI efforts.
We’re committed and in it for the long haul, and believe transparency is a critical part of this journey, so here is an update about our goals and progress thus far:
● In August, we conducted an internal survey among our owners, managers, and staff, to create a benchmark of where we are as a company and help guide the direction that we need to take to advance our DEI initiatives. An agent survey is forthcoming in 2021.
● We are producing informational content related to CC&Rs to educate homeowners on how to remove racially restrictive language from their title reports in the 10 states where Windermere operates.
● We are working with an advertising agency that specializes in inclusive and future-forward marketing to evaluate our digital marketing products through a DEI lens.
● We have designated funds for a scholarship program that invests in people of color who want to work in real estate, and are designing training and mentoring programs to aid in their success.
● We are building internal DEI training and development programs, starting with franchise owners, managers, and staff, with plans to expand to agents in 2021.
● We are analyzing our hiring processes to ensure broader representation by people of color.
● We’re generating insights from all these efforts to help us develop a set of thematic pillars to guide our DEI goals and strategy over the long term.
● We’re planning on listening sessions this fall for the Windermere community to continue to have input in this process.
This is just the beginning of what we know will be a long-term journey of awareness and accountability. We are focused and determined to do our part to address discrimination, racism, and inequity within Windermere and the real estate industry. Our efforts stem from the recognition that there is a long history of housing discrimination in the United States and that the inequality in homeownership has deepened the racial divide. Through our work, we hope to play a role in finding ways to correct these inequalities. We realize we were late to this movement and should’ve spoken up sooner, but our eyes are open, and we are committed to leading the way towards positive change from here on out.