Diversity Shortcomings at Keller WIlliams and in Real Estate Brokerage Suzanne Hollander Professor Real Estate Comments

Housingwire’s Senior Real Estate Reporter Matthew Blake included Suzanne Hollander’s comments in his story “Keller Williams, & Brokerages Diversity Shortcomings” Click here to read the full story. Scroll down to read excerpts from the story, Suzanne’s comments are highlighted in yellow.

“Marc King’s latest Instagram post is a quote from Dr. Suess – “You have to be odd to be number one.”

But King’s elevation to Keller Williams president this week isn’t odd in one way – he’s a white man. King also replaces a white man, the abruptly departed Josh Team, and reports to another white man, Carl Liebert, the CEO of the brokerage’s holding company, KWx.

These moves were orchestrated by another Caucasian male, Gary Keller, the brokerage’s co-founder and executive chairman. Keller, in turn named another white man, Matt Green, new head of agent and partner experience, and recruited Chris Cox, a white man, to helm technology and digital.

Some of Keller Williams’ own agents slammed the white male musical chairs.

“All white guys,” Christopher Paul, a Keller Williams agent in Southern California, said in an Inman News Facebook thread Tuesday. “There is incredible talent that also includes diversity out there. But no. The good old boy strategy still at play. This was an opportunity missed.”

So, did Keller Williams make an unforced error?

The answer partly lies in the brokerage’s mysterious and still unfolding executive turnover.

But Keller’s diversity shortcomings at the top of the organization are an issue at most big residential brokerages. The crux, say those who study diversity in brokerages, is twofold: The real estate industry’s legacy of racism and discrimination, and an uneven gender power dynamic.

Sixty-four percent

The National Association of Realtors’ most recent member survey was done in 2017, and found that 64% of agents and brokers identified as female, and 34% as male. Those numbers reflect a longstanding dominance of women in residential real estate.

“Residential real estate attracted women because it has the flexible hours that corporate America traditionally didn’t have,” said Suzanne Hollander, a professor of real estate law at Florida International University, who also advises at the school’s Office to Advance Equity and Diversity. “There are also low barriers to entry.”

Many female real estate agents head local franchisees and helm executive positions.

In fact, 55% of all Keller Williams’ franchise operations are headed by women, the company stated in response to questions for this story. Keller Williams currently has multiple female executives including Ann Yett, its chief financial officer for the last 15 years, and Mo Anderson, a vice chair who had a 10-year stint as CEO that ended in 2005. In the past, Mary Tennant held the role of president between 1995 and 2014.

Several other brokerages mirror Keller’s current setup, with men in the very top positions but female CFOs (and divisional vice presidents).

These include Compass, where Robert Reffkin is CEO and Kristen Ankerbrandt serves as CFO, and Realogy, with Ryan Schneider as CEO and Charlotte Simonelli CFO. RE/Max leadership includes CEO Adam Contos and CFO Karri Callahan…..

“The male leadership is odd indeed, [due to] the lower echelons [being] female dominated,” said Gilles Duranton, a professor of real estate at the University of Pennsylvania.

Residential real estate, Hollander said, has a greater obligation to put women in executive positions due to the sheer number of female professionals.

“In corporate America there is an old boys club, but we shouldn’t have that in an industry that is 64% women,” Hollander said.

Keller Williams sharply disputes the idea that an inner sanctum of men dictates company policy.

“As a company, we are by agents for agents,” said company spokesperson Darryl Frost. Big decisions, Frost added, are done in consultation with committees like the Social Equity Task Force, created last year by the company’s International Associate Leadership Council meeting…..

Compass, however, appears to be the exception. The nation’s two largest brokerages, Realogy and Berkshire Hathaway Home Services, are headed by white men.

For example, Berkshire Hathaway Home Services has a white male chairman, CEO, executive vice-president for business development, and CFO. The company noted in a statement that it has a vice president for diversity and inclusion in Teresa Smith, and “are laser focused on implementing training programs” including “leadership training that foster diversity, equity, and inclusion.”

Realogy’s Chief People Officer Tanya Reu-Narvaez also emphasized training, though she focused specifically on recruiting minority leaders…..

Keller’s next moves

Frost, the Keller Williams spokesperson, said that “diversity and inclusion is an absolute priority for Keller Williams,” important factors, “That remain in the consideration set when we hire.”

Keller Williams may soon have a chance to show such words – and images on its website – mean something. Sources within the company said this past week that more executive hires are on the way.

As another recent Marc King Instagram post put it, “May the next few months be a period of beautiful transformation.”

Excerpts shared from Housingwires’s March 1, 2021 article, click here to read full article.

Suzanne Hollander is a real estate attorney, speaker, broker, professor and voice for property rights, real estate, housing infrastructure development and women investment advocate. The U.S. Department of State appointed Suzanne to its Fulbright Specialist Roster as an Expert in Real Estate. Commercial Real Estate Women (CREW) Network awarded Suzanne its Global Impact Award for Career Advancement for Women in 2018 and Globestreet recognized her as a Woman of Influence in Commercial Real Estate – Mentor Category 2019. 

Nationally, Suzanne is a Board Member of Housing on Merit, a 501(c)(3) Nonprofit organization, committed to preserving and developing affordable housing, a Board Member of RiskFootprint, a Property-Technology company quantifying environmental/ climate risks for  property,  a member of CREW Network’s Diversity & Inclusion Task Force and on the Advisory Board of the C.R.E.A.T.E. Wealth Network with a the mission of providing high quality commercial real estate investing education to all with an emphasis on uplifting women in leaders in the industry. , In Miami, she is a Board Member of Commercial Real Estate Women and 100 Women in Finance.

Fluent in Spanish and English, Suzanne is an invited attorney expert delivering speeches and moderating panels to private industry, universities and government entities through the U.S. and Latin America on:

  •  Real estate law, housing/infrastructure development & urban/regional decentralization
  •  Importance of private property rights to wealth creation and promotion of democracy 
  •  Strategies to build transparent legal property systems to create efficient markets valuable to attract global allocation of capital
  • Shopping centers impact on regional economy and social issues
  • Strategies to advance the careers and education of women in real estate, law, finance

Suzanne’s comments on real estate, housing and property rights appear in Spanish, Portuguese and English media, including Wall St. Journal Money Watch, YahooFinance!, The Mortgage Reports, Miami Herald, El Nuevo Herald, The Dallas Morning News, The Palm Beach Post,  Wallethub, The Real Deal, Bankrate, Mercado De Dinero USA, GlobeStreet, Scotsman Guide Commercial Real Estate edition, El Monterero, Peru and InfoMoney, Brazil.

Disclaimer: Professor Real Estate® written materials apply generally to real estate subjects and are not intended to apply to specific legal issues. 

Copyright 2021 ~ All rights reserved. ~ Professor Real Estate® Suzanne Hollander

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