A diverse group of employees sit at a conference table.

NAR shines a light on ‘cultural transformation’  

The themes of diversity, equity and inclusion were present throughout last week’s NAR NXT conference.

November 24, 2023
4 minutes

Key points:

  • NAR leaders highlighted a new “cultural transformation committee” and hinted at diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) programs for 2024.
  • NAR hosted various sessions related to DEI, including a discussion of how broker/owners can be more inclusive and how agents can become allies.
  • Session leaders said DEI efforts aren’t just about doing the right thing — they can also help members with recruiting efforts and lead to more business.

The National Association of Realtors is trying to make good on its promise to be more inclusive and amplify voices that have not always been heard. 

At least that was the message coming out of NAR presentations and sessions at the organization's annual conference in Anaheim last week, where leaders outlined association initiatives and offered strategies for members to increase their awareness of diversity issues and take action in their businesses.

Moving beyond a 'culture of fear,' lack of diversity

During her keynote speech at the event, NAR president Tracy Kasper directly addressed some of the organization's shortcomings and recent failures — particularly related to allegations of harassment and the "culture of fear" within NAR ranks — but outlined a number of ways that NAR is working to improve its standing with its staff, members and the general public. 

As one example, Kasper noted that NAR is forming a new 75-member "cultural transformation committee" to help the association move forward in a positive way. 

The organization also acknowledged its lack of diversity at the leadership level. "Our membership here at the National Association of REALTORS — at our local and at our state associations — they do not represent our community as a whole, both racially and ethnically in terms of diversity and the future," Nate Johnson, NAR's VP for Advocacy, said during the conference. 

"And now we have an incredible opportunity to make sure that our membership reflects the diversity in our communities, and in turn, that our leadership reflects the diversity of our membership."

Johnson signaled that NAR would be introducing a new program early next year that is "going to help current NAR leaders spark the interest of emerging leaders," particularly as it relates to diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI).

How brokerages and agents can foster inclusivity — and improve their businesses

A session on DEI for brokers focused on inclusive recruiting, hiring and retention practices. "Sometimes as agents, we fight over who gets a piece of the pie. But what if we just made the pie bigger?" asked Gonzalo Mejia, chair of NAR's Diversity Committee and team lead of the Dream Home Team at Watson Realty Corp in Jacksonville, Florida, who led the session.

He encouraged broker/owners to build teams that are reflective of the entire community they serve, warning that if a team reflects only one group, it would deter potential job applicants and clients.

"I get many calls and customers from the LGBTQ community because they're like, 'I'm afraid to go to an agent who might discriminate against me.' It shouldn't be like that," he explained. 

Other benefits of diversifying a team or brokerage, beyond recruiting and gaining clients, are agent retention and "expanding team members' perspectives," Mejia said. 

Gonzalo Mejia, chair of NAR’s Diversity Committee, speaks at NAR NXT 2023.
Gonzalo Mejia, chair of NAR’s Diversity Committee, speaks at NAR NXT. (Photo: AJ LaTrace)

But there is also value in standing with diverse communities, Ryan Weyandt, CEO of the LGBTQ+ Real Estate Alliance, said during a session focused on becoming an ally. Weyandt shared the definition of an ally with attendees: "A person or group that provides assistance and support in an ongoing effort, activity, or struggle," according to Merriam-Webster.

"I think everyone in this room realizes and understands that no minority movement has ever succeeded without the assistance and support of an ally community to help push it along," Weyandt said. "I don't care who you are or where you're from —  if you've ever been part of a marginalized population, we rely on the outside to help us gain the equity, respect and dignity that we're entitled to."

Allies, Weyandt noted, helped the LGBTQ+ Real Estate Alliance grow "from literally nothing to 4,000 members in under three years." And allyship also makes good business sense, he added.

"If you're not working with LGBTQ+ community right now, you're losing money. And it's that simple."

A presentation slide during a NAR NXT session shows demographic info about the LGBTQ+ community.
A slide from the "Becoming an Ally" session at NAR NXT. (Photo: AJ LaTrace)

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