Agents of Change: Steve Sallion raising the profile of Black agents
Sallion doesn't take his success for granted. He's dedicated himself to philanthropy and supporting Black agents at Sotheby's Realty and beyond.
Steve Sallion feels blessed to have been able to go to college and achieve success in the business world — something he does not take for granted. And, now that he's in a position to give back, he's doing it in a big way.
An associate broker at Daniel Gale Sotheby's International Realty in Brooklyn, Sallion is active in a number of community boards and revitalization projects. He's spent the past decade as a board member for the Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Art (MoCADA) and he's on the advisory board of the Daniel Gale Foundation, helping to direct philanthropy efforts.
He's also a founding member of Black Luxury Agent Collective (B.L.A.C.), an inclusive affinity group designed to support and encourage the Black community within Sotheby's Realty. "I remember being a new agent and there just wasn't a network of support for people who looked like me," Sallion says. Even now, NAR reports that about 8% of its members are Black, compared with 14% of Americans overall. Sallion says of Sotheby's 26,000 real estate agents worldwide, only about 1% are Black.
"B.L.A.C. is a safe place for agents to ask questions and build relationships that will enhance their careers now, and down the road," he says, noting agent support is just part of the group's mission. B.L.A.C. is also focused on building collaborative relationships and networks in order to advance the understanding of real estate and driving wealth within the Black community.
"We've already been able to reach into communities to conduct panel discussions on homeownership," Sallion says. "We've partnered with experts in life insurance, estate planning and financial planning to help create a better understanding of how wealth can be built."
Sallion notes it's been refreshing to have agents of other races join B.L.A.C. as allies. "A whole lot of our agents recognize the wealth gap and they want to help address some of the fair housing issues Black homebuyers and homeowners face. The more we learn, the better we'll all be."
The group also hopes to raise the profile of Black real estate agents — starting with company marketing materials and the media. "Perception is everything," says Sallion. "We have to start within our own company. So much of our business comes from referrals, but if we aren't seen as successful, we won't get those referrals."
Representing Black agents to the public is equally important. "If potential clients don't see people who look like them in fliers and brochures, they might think homebuying isn't for them or they need to look elsewhere for an agent," he says. "And if every time the media interviews a real estate agent, that agent is white, that's doing nothing to let people know that there are also very smart, very successful Black agents."
How does a busy agent balance real estate work and community involvement? "I'm better at my job when I'm out in the community, building relationships," says Sallion. "The person I am when I'm at MoCADA or attending a community meeting is the most authentic version of me. When someone I meet through that involvement wants to work with me or refers someone to me, they know exactly who they're getting."