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Because having a home, apartment or any clean and safe place to live is so fundamental to a well-functioning society, the extent to which that industry is open to people of all races becomes an extremely influential socio-economic force.

Unfortunately, the American real estate industry remains a sector where diversity and inclusion are significantly lagging. It starts at the ownership level. For example, a study done by the Bella Research Group along with the Knight Foundation in 2017 found that 75% of the top jobs in the real estate industry were held by white males. Just 1.3% were held by African American men.

The situation is even worse for women. Executive-level jobs are made up of just 14.1% white women with fewer than 1% being black women. Furthermore, of the 889 real estate investment management firms looked at in the study, a tiny 0.7% were owned by women and 2% were owned by people of color.

The May 25 death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers brought racial issues into sharper focus over the summer. It produced a huge amount of introspection about racial issues across the board, including the business world and the real estate sector. Experts say that bringing more diversity into real estate will have a positive effect that will ripple throughout society. In short, greater diversity in real estate will translate into a more fair and inclusive society. How can it be accomplished?

Osayamen Asemota-Bartholomew is the chief program officer & acting executive director at Project REAP, a group that helps minority professionals gain traction in the real estate industry. She said change must start from the top. That means executives at important levels who make the key decisions simply must start making conscious and directed efforts to hire more minorities for management-level jobs.

That, in turn, leads to the process of recruiting. White people tend to hire other white people who are already in their social circle. They feel little motivation to do otherwise. However, company leaders should establish diversity hiring goals and then actively recruit candidates starting at the college level.

It must be a consciously chosen policy and a decision made with the direct intent to produce change, said Asemota-Bartholomew.