Embracing Equity: Reflections from CREA Board Leaders

Every year, International Women’s Day is recognized on March 8. This year’s theme is #EmbraceEquity.

Equity should not be confused with equality. While equality means everyone is given the same resources or opportunities, equity recognizes individuals have different circumstances, so different resources or opportunities may be needed to reach an equal outcome.

As an example, women—and especially women of colour and other intersectional identities—face structural barriers in the workplace and are less likely to reach the boardroom than their male counterparts in all industries, including real estate. By embracing equity, we can remove or at least mitigate these barriers to equal leadership opportunities for all.

According to CREA’s 2022 membership survey, 55% of our membership identifies as male, 45% identifies as female, and 0.2% identifies as non-binary. While the male-female representation is close to parity within our membership, year after year this balance has not been reflected in CREA’s Board of Directors. Our current board, as an example, has four female members (27%) and 11 male members (73%). The fact that our board does not accurately reflect the gender diversity of our membership—as well as other equally important dimensions of diversity—is a persistent and systemic problem that our board and leadership team recognizes and is working hard to address, with the help of our Governance and Bylaws Committee.

“Women make outstanding REALTORS® and real estate professionals,” says CREA’s Chair Jill Oudil. “We need more of their voices as well as the voices of other underrepresented groups at our board table.”

For the past two years, CREA’s Governance and Bylaws Committee has acted as champions and advisors of CREA’s governance-related diversity, equity, inclusion and anti-racism (DEIA) efforts. Last year, the committee put forward several DEIA-focused recommendations for improvements to CREA’s committee application and appointment processes to the CREA board of directors, all of which were approved, including: the hosting of an informative webinar for prospective committee members; the establishment of percentage-based targets for the shortlisting and appointment of women and individuals reporting other dimensions of diversity; and the completion of anti-bias training by those responsible for the shortlisting and appointment of committee members.

This year, the committee turned its attention to exploring potential ways to encourage, welcome and increase the diversity of candidates and successors to CREA’s board of directors, with the goal of ultimately recommending relevant and meaningful changes to the board and membership in the near future. As a first step, the committee has recommended changes that embed DEIA considerations into CREA’s governance manuals. These recommendations will go to the Board for approval this spring.

Kimberly French serves on CREA’s Board as Regional Director, Atlantic, and is also a member of the Governance and Bylaws Committee. One of her key takeaways from the committee’s work has been the importance of ongoing education in this space: “We’ve made great strides, but the real estate industry needs more education on DEIA. We need to embrace and recognize everyone’s talents. We need to ensure practices and policies are inclusive of all.”

James Mabey, Vice Chair of CREA’s Board of Directors and Chair of the Governance and Bylaws Committee adds: “The diversity of the REALTOR® community is our industry’s superpower. Working with the committee this year, we have been attempting to unlock that superpower by identifying barriers to equity in our policies and processes. I am proud of the sincerity with which CREA is ‘embracing equity’ on our DEIA journey.”

The CREA Café team is responsible for the official blog of The Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA). The CREA Café is a cozy place for CREA to connect with our valued members and friends by sharing our thoughts and insights over a virtual cup of coffee.

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