kwx head of inclusion and belonging Julia Lashay Israel is a true real estate veteran. Throughout her 21-year industry tenure, she’s covered plenty of ground: from leading her own team in Minnesota, to serving as a market center administrator and a productivity coach, and chairing many city boards and diversity committees. All of these experiences, Israel shares, “create the perfect storm for an opportunity in a role like this.”
In taking on this previously untrekked position within the Keller Williams universe, Israel is excited to keep equity at the forefront of the KW mission, and help elevate the industry’s mindset as a whole on the topics of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). “There are a lot of challenges that will require people to change their mindsets,” Israel shares, comparing the undertaking to that of a productivity coach role. “It’s similar in that it is helping people see from a different perspective how changing their mindset can help them grow themselves personally, as well as grow their business.”Identify Your Biases
Five Building Blocks for Embracing Equity and Creating Opportunities for All
Keller Williams is known for its culture of care and industrywide recognition as a top employer for diversity, women, and recent graduates, among other honors. But, when Gary Keller sent a companywide letter denouncing racism in June of 2020, the company’s commitment to equity took center stage. “He as a leader publicly got up and said ‘Racism is wrong’ and created the Social Equity Task Force,” Israel says. “Now, the task force is the foundation of how we are showing up in the DEI space.” Here, she shares a glimpse into what this work looks like, and how leaders and agents can join the conversation.
1. It all starts with leadership. Although there may be interest in DEI initiatives from multiple parties within an organization, true change starts at the leadership level. “You can’t send people to a class you’ve never taken,” Israel shares. “Leaders need to be vocal about it, embrace it, and educate themselves. From there, it will trickle down.”
Israel’s own role as head of inclusion and belonging is a testament to the power of leadership involvement. Her role was created at the request of the Social Equity Task Force – a conversation that would have never happened without Gary Keller taking a stand in support of equality and change. “The sun sets and rises with leadership,” she says.
2. Understand the diversity bottom line. One of the big challenges of integrating diversity and equity into the wider real estate discussion is connecting the dots and showing people how it is relevant to them, Israel shares. “Many people don’t think that diversity has anything to do with them, but that is not the case. Diversity can simply be that we are from two different geographical regions,” Israel shares.
In another example, she speaks of her two friends: one being 4-foot-11, the other 5-foot-10. “Totally different experience through life! And that’s what diversity is – bringing people of different walks of life, putting them together, and getting them to understand the importance of learning from each other.”
3. It’s not just a personal conversation – it’s a business one. There is a KW MAPS Coaching BOLD law that states ‘Your business grows to the extent that you do,’ Israel points out. Take, for example, mindset changes that impact your productivity. As you learn and grow in your understanding of the DEI space, you are essentially developing your mindset, leading to a more fruitful bottom line for your business.
“If you are unwilling to embrace and learn a bit about DEI, you will be slowly working yourself out of business,” says Israel, who constantly receives leads from people of different backgrounds. “I get leads from different people because they know that I’m open to working with different cultures and I’m educated about it. I take time to learn my craft. Embracing diversity is just as much a business decision as it is a personal one.”
Related reading: Building Equity and Doing Good: An Agent’s Quick Guide
4. Set high standards and stick by them. Keller Williams’ mission, vision, and belief system clearly spells out the company’s dedication to its people. And, with the inclusion of ‘Equity: opportunities for all’ within the WI4C2TES, there is no room for interpretation. “It is important for people to understand what you stand for, and it is OK to stand by these values, even if it may be uncomfortable.”
This advice doesn’t just apply to big topics like discrimination. Even on a smaller scale, wearing your values on your sleeve can help people see whether these values align with their own, saving headache and heartache on all sides. In her own business, Israel remembers bringing on an agent who peeked around the office, asking why everyone was so happy. “If you don’t want to be happy, you don’t have to come here. People can self-select. Not everything is for everybody, and that’s OK.”
5. Understand the importance of your role, and continue to educate yourself. “As real estate agents, we have a special role because we directly impact the wealth in the entire country. And it is important for us to understand our world in its entirety, and what we are doing when we transfer land ownership,” Israel says.
While real estate school teaches you the business side, knowing the history behind why current neighborhoods are structured the way they are can give you an additional layer of expertise and enrich your perspective. To that extent, Israel has created two courses that offer essential knowledge into the history of homeownership and skills to ensure that you don’t unconsciously miss out on business.
- The Color of Real Estate: “This course is all about learning the history of the land we sell and reflecting on unconscious biases that could be costing us business, or worse, our licenses. It also covers making sure we implement a diverse business strategy.”
- Unconscious Bias: “This course asks: Why do we think what we think? What is bias? It teaches how to be aware and choose our behaviors differently and be intentional about our actions.”
With both of these courses, Israel stresses that the aim is to educate. “Sometimes, people that may be struggling with those conversations can feel like blame or shame is being placed on them, and nobody is going to sign up for something that will make them feel that way. This is not what that is. We are in the business of helping people grow their business.”
Ultimately, DEI is a mission driven by agents, for agents. “They will know best how to move this forward in their particular markets and business,” Israel says. “What we’re doing at KWRI is creating the tools, the resources, and the training that people need to be able to move that forward.”