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September 8, 2023

What Diversity Means to Me

Kristina Smith
Written By:
Kristina Smith

At the risk of sounding cliché, let’s cut right to the chase: in terms of diversity and of our own world view, we all live in our own bubbles, and it’s safe to say we all understand the social and cultural ecosystems within our spheres. So, I’d like for you to go ahead and think about your own bubble and how it influences your perspective of other “bubbles.”

Drawing a blank? Well, for me, as a black woman, I’m accustomed to thinking within specific frames of reference – so when looking outward, sometimes I think in terms of race, ethnicity or gender. If you’re shaking your head right now, that’s good… because only thinking within my own point of view makes for a very limited perception of diversity and reality.

It’s a fact that our nation is a melting pot and is becoming more diverse by the day. So, in our world, it just makes sense to try to bring everyone to the table – because they are there and waiting. As I explain what diversity means to me, and what it can mean to you, I’d like to talk about The Studio’s journey toward improved representation. In three steps, this is how we expanded our horizons; I believe these same steps are vital for breaking outside your own bubble and embracing inclusivity.

A Call to Action – Acknowledge

In 2020, even as our nation struggled in the throes of COVID-19, U.S. citizens were faced with difficult conversations about race, equality and justice. In light of this tumultuous social reckoning, here at The Studio, we also decided to look inward and make it our responsibility to show agents, clients, employees, competitors and most importantly, the world, that we recognize the need to appreciate our underrepresented communities. So, we weren’t just going to ride out the momentum.

The Mission – Educate

In July 2020, The Studio conducted an exhaustive, all-hands-on-deck diversity audit led by the National Director of Communications, Jennifer McGuire – a name you’ve likely seen on this site. I had the privilege of assisting Jennifer with this audit, and on a personal level, it was an interesting study into what I viewed as diverse.

One of the most important parts of our audit took place at the very beginning. We met with branch managers who are members of the Anywhere Employee Resource Groups, or ERGs, to see how they viewed representation in our countless marketing materials. A few ERGs include the African American Caribbean Employee ERG, the Hispanic and Latino ERG, RealDisabilities and REALPRIDE. We knew their perspective would be invaluable while conducting this audit, so we wanted to know:

  1. If agents and agents’ clients were being represented properly/enough
  2. What we were doing right
  3. Their pointers on areas of improvement

Thanks to these eye-opening meetings, we learned that, of course, representing diversity is about more than appearances. It’s about perpetuated roles of authority, the lifestyles and values of our consumers and much more. So, once it was time to take a deep dive into the audit, we were armed with knowledge of what to look for.

This is how we leveraged good intentions into action.

A Principle – Engage

A general consensus was that while ERG members wish to see “people who look like me,” they also value seeing people of different ages, races, ethnicities, genders, sexual orientations, with disabilities and more because it reflects many of our communities and our nation as a whole.

So, for our audit, Jennifer and I marked materials that needed better representation in these areas. Here are a few examples of how we’ve improved our pieces so far:

  • Even during the audit, we began replacing many images with poor diverse representation with images that presented models of more diverse backgrounds.
  • We expanded our offering of translated materials so agents could effectively present info to their clients.
  • We boosted social options with new cultural holidays, family types and lifestyles.

 

It was a challenge to consider ways that we could do better and give marginalized groups the stage that everyone deserves, but at its core, diversity is complex and personal, and it should be celebrated. Just as Coldwell Banker is continuing in their efforts to engage with more members of the populace, we hope to fulfill our implicit promise to Coldwell Banker’s agents, employees, customers and to ourselves: a promise to appreciate the impact, experiences, accomplishments and the spirit of diverse communities.

To me, diversity is all about acknowledging the bubbles outside your own, learning about them and engaging with them. Improving representation is about more than reaching out to a larger audience or signaling consumers – it’s about carving out a better, more welcoming place in the world.

Because ultimately, we all can learn something from these groups – from their challenges, from their perspectives and ultimately, from what we share in common. And in our case in the real estate sector, it’s the most basic, natural desire to find a place to call home.

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