Diversity, equity, and inclusion are part of our Keller Williams value system. With the historic IALC vote that took place in 2020, it’s all on paper: Keller Williams is a company that supports “Equity: opportunities for all,” not only as a line item within its mission statement, but in the everyday partnerships the company chooses to pursue.
In tandem with Keller Williams’ efforts, the real estate industry as a whole is making strides in creating a welcoming environment where all agents – regardless of race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or gender – can succeed. But the work is far from over.
“As a company, we are committed to supporting our diverse array of agents and promoting inclusion within Keller Williams, and beyond,” says Head of Industry Jason Abrams. With this in mind, Keller Williams has partnered up with the LGBTQ+ Real Estate Alliance – a 501(c)(6) nonprofit organization dedicated to empowering the LGBTQ+ community on the path to homeownership and advocating on behalf of the community on housing issues.
The challenges of today
“Broader social acceptance and increased legal protections have been empowering for LGBTQ consumers in recent years, but bias remains,” states the National Association of REALTORSⓇ. “It is not only a matter of equity and fairness to treat lesbian and gay clients with the same professional respect as any others, it is also a requirement as a REALTOR®.”
This increased protection starts in NAR’s own backyard – the organization’s Code of Ethics prohibits REALTORS® from discriminating based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Legislature is also being passed at the state level. According to the HRC’s State Equality Index, in the housing industry, 22 states and D.C. prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
Yet, at the national level, inconsistencies remain. Currently, same-sex couples are not regarded as a protected class in the eyes of the law, and as such, they are unable to seek legal action when facing discrimination. Those inconsistencies are a driving force beyond The Equality Act, an LGBTQ+ rights bill that prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in a multitude of areas, including housing. Currently, the bill is making its way through the Senate.
The LGBTQ+ community doesn’t just face discrimination on the homebuying or selling side. Agents can be just as vulnerable when it comes to dealing with the prejudices of others. Recently, in Florida, two Keller Williams agents received an anti-LGBTQ+ letter that was widely condemned not just by Keller Williams, but by the real estate industry as a whole.
Why we’re partnering up
These types of situations and behaviors are the reason Keller Williams is joining forces with the LGBTQ+ Real Estate Alliance. In order to provide a more equitable environment in the real estate space for agents and LGBTQ+ buyers and sellers, it’s important to do the work and be in alignment with organizations striving to create a deep, meaningful impact within the industry.
“We are so honored to be a founding partner of the LGBTQ+ Real Estate Alliance,” says Abrams. “As an organization, we remain strongly committed to supporting our LGBTQ+ community and promoting equity and inclusion for everyone. Partnering with the Alliance will propel this effort forward tremendously.”
What does this look like in action? Through this partnership, both Keller Williams and the LGBTQ+ Alliance aim to:
- Raise awareness for both organizations’ mission and values and the challenges that LGBTQ+ members face within each respective network
- Promote a clear understanding of the opportunities and challenges faced by LGBTQ+ homebuyers by educating the public through thought leadership
- Cross-collaborate on content that advances an understanding of LGBTQ+’s unique considerations, including the role of intersectionality and color
- Offer feedback and insights into potential education curriculums that can be used in service to the community by LGBTQ+ practitioners and allies
The faces behind the partnership
This is no small undertaking – and it would not be possible without the leaders working tirelessly behind the scenes in order to build a more equitable and just world. Here, we introduce you to two of these leaders, both also active members of the KW Rainbow Network, the largest independent LGBTQ group of any real estate company on the globe. The group is constantly expanding through visibility at national and regional conferences, local Pride events, and of course, word-of-mouth.
Dave Gervase, National Board of Directors
Gervase describes himself as an “accidental activist.” “Every time I see something, I have to say something,” he shares. Previously involved with a different organization as a chapter leader, his quest for transparency led him to become one of the founding members on the alliance’s National Board of Directors. “An organization built by the members of the organization to accomplish the goals that the organization wants to achieve,” shares Gervase as the goal. “One of the things I’m most proud of is being part of the subcommittee that got together to create our mission, vision, and values belief system.”
Gervase is no stranger to a mission-driven culture. As the leader of a two-man team at Keller Williams’ Fort Lauderdale market center (alongside his husband), he’s worn many KW culture-centric hats over the years. Throughout, he has also received market center and regional recognition for his efforts surrounding culture. “KW partnering with the Alliance is important to me because it’s a public statement that KW stands with me against discrimination, bigotry, and hate,” he says.
Through his current work with the LGBTQ+ Alliance, the long-term goal is ending the housing and lending discrimination that affects the community. “It’s prevalent. Maybe you don’t see it as much in your metropolitan areas or in areas where people have experience with people of other walks of life, but that is not the entire country. Which is why we want to bring awareness to the fact that there can be that type of discrimination, and to work to educate to end it.” As far as the alliance goes, Gervase stresses the ‘PLUS” at the end. “Everyone is welcome to have a voice. Everyone is welcome to help pick up the torch and help spread the message. We want allies.”
Kimberly Davis, Chair of Professionals of Color (PRISM) Advisory Board
Kimberly Davis’s business is located in the second-wealthiest county in the state of Texas. “What I know for sure is that we’re one of the only diverse real estate teams in Collin County,” she shares. As such, her involvement within the Alliance comes as no surprise. “I will always support diversity, regardless of the objections that we are hurled, so I am proud to lead a diverse company. The Alliance is important to me, and I’m standing tall with the Alliance because I love the fact that we are involved in helping people gain homes and communities, as well as focusing on supporting women, veterans, and minority businesses in the actual alliance.”
As the CEO of the Kimberly Davis Group at Keller Williams, Davis leads a 10-person team that embodies her cultural vision. “I take pride in acknowledging the same ethics, ambition, and customer service skills that have put me where I am today,” she says. “What I admire is that in the Alliance, the majority of our chapter presidents and many members are KW agents. Many of our agents with KW have been able to connect and do great things for the real estate industry just by being present with open arms,” she adds.
For Davis, the work is personal. As a lesbian Black woman, she is no stranger to some of the roadblocks still being put forth for minority groups – especially those at the intersection of multiple identities that have traditionally faced discrimination. “I can just tell you that real life is my own story,” she shares. Through her work with the Alliance and as a chair for PRISM, Davis aims to be a pillar of support within her community and empower others to do the same. “My leadership emboldens me, which emboldens others and gives others examples to live by. We need to be a voice for the consumer, for our agents, and for our families, because it gives people the feeling of safety and the confidence to stand in their own power and in their own belief in themselves.”
Looking toward the future
At Keller Williams, the work continues, and we are excited to take you on the journey. Keep staying plugged in on Outfront to learn the latest about the company’s diversity, equity, and inclusion work. Don’t forget to subscribe to Outfront’s weekly email newsletter to stay in the loop.
Interested in learning more about the Alliance? Visit their website.
To learn more about the KW Rainbow Network, visit their website.